Ending the Stigma

By Mallorie Sckerl

At the end of mental health awareness week, psychology teacher Melissa Rogers addresses lessons learned

What is the stigma surrounding mental illness?

“We don’t necessarily see people first. We tend to see the disorder first, and there’s also the assumption that if you have a psychological disorder there is clearly something wrong with you when it’s really something you can’t even control. Nobody ever chooses to have a psychological disorder, and you definitely can’t control it the way that people who give it the stigma assume.”

Why is this stigma an issue?

“Mostly because it prevents people from getting help, whether that’s through a doctor, medicine, counseling, that sort of thing, or even just opening up to their friends and getting support.”

How do we combat the stigma?

“By educating ourselves more. Taking a stand with those who suffer from some type of psychological disorder, being an advocate for them. If you hear somebody say something that does not consider the person behind the psychological disorder, something that’s just very judgemental or unfair, you can always say something. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of effort on your part, just the willingness to stand up for people.”

Why do you think it’s important to have a week dedicated to mental health?

“A week conveys severity and importance. A day doesn’t really do it justice, especially if you’re considering the percentage of the population that either deals with a disorder themselves or loves someone who deals with a disorder. I think if you’re making it into a week, it’s not just a single day where you do some nice activities. If you make it a week long process, it’s maybe more likely to be a habit of someone’s.”

Why is it important to raise awareness about mental health?

“I don’t think we necessarily understand mental health. There clearly is still so much that we could know and we just haven’t discovered yet, but because it impacts such a great deal of the population in some capacity, either themselves personally or someone they love.”

What does this week mean to you as a psychology teacher?

“I’ve seen students dealing with psychological disorders … and it makes me feel like we’re going to get to a point in their lifetime where people aren’t judged for that. That this is seen as, yes, being an aspect of something that person is dealing with, but not an aspect of who they are. It makes me hope that, within the very near future, these students won’t have shame of having a psychological disorder.”

Why are people so against talking about mental health that we need a week dedicated to it? Why can’t talking about it be normal?

“Because we’re not there yet. I feel like the reason that we have timeframes set aside to celebrate or raise awareness for certain things is because maybe we’re not doing a good enough job in the every day, or maybe it’s even just a week to celebrate people who deal with it.”

What do you hope people get out of this week?

“I hope that people who have a disorder feel more supported in opening up, if that’s what they need, and I hope those that don’t have it realize the consideration that needs to be given to the people that do.”

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