Last week I published a post titled: Mental Illness Doesn't Make You Any Less Human - don't be afraid to speak up - I was taken aback by the response the post received, and I was very thankful that the Huffington Post UK blog team let me use my voice on such an incredible platform.
The response to my blog post was overwhelmingly positive; however there were one or two comments that offered prime examples of mental health stigma in everyday situations - particularly online. I've been offered the chance to use this platform to raise concerns and start discussions about the positive and accurate portrayal of mental illness, I'd feel hypocritical if I was to ignore some of these negative comments, but I also feel it's important to note that I am not being malicious here.
I responded to some of these stigmatising comments and I also published a blog on my own website DearestSomeone.com.
Here's what I said:
Recently I published a blog for the Huffington Post's Young Voices, and the response was overwhelmingly positive - in fact I'm still in awe of the lovely comments, pledges to fight stigma and speak out. However, some were not so lovely. Unfortunately in this world there is always someone who will disagree with you, or have opposing, yet strong opinions, but this time I'm not going to stand by and let them shout about something when, in my opinion, they are completely wrong.
Huffington Post UK shared my blog - 'Mental Illness doesn't make you any less human - don't be afraid to speak up' - via their social media streams, which I am incredibly thankful for! But, this was one of the comments the post received:
"Depression!!...Didn't have time to get depressed when i was young,to busy fighting a war and working 60 hours a week to raise a family...It's bunkum just a way to claim benefits,get off your fat lazy back sides and get a job and a hobby!"
Naturally this comment made me incredibly annoyed and frustrated, I'm not the only person sharing my story, and I am certainly not the only person dealing with mental illness. The strange thing is sometimes depression convinces me that I am making everything up, that I am a failure and that I should just quite. Comments like the above add to the horrible stigma of mental illness.
Fortunately many others replied, fighting back (politely of course), and this was my response to the comment:
"Did you not read the post [name removed]... I suffer with depression and more. I'm not on benefits, in fact there's been points where I've had four jobs at once, spoke in the House of Lords about something completely unrelated to mental health, I've worked multiple times with the House of Commons, the BBC, multiple reputable institutions (including the Royal Navy, The Environment Agency, the Coastguard and the National Trust), I've also worked tirelessly fundraising (voluntarily) for marginalised youths and more... so thanks for your arrogance, but you are completely wrong." (Ella Robson, 2015)
Unfortunately this isn't the first time I've received comments, or seen comments of this nature on other peoples blogs. And quite frankly I've had enough. Stigma is too frequent, too harmful and certainly not welcome. The wonder of the internet means that once you post something (comment, blog or whatever) it is pretty much there forever. I hope I'm not being too silly re-posting the above comment, but it was made publicly on social media, so it's already there for the world to see, and I want to do something to try and break down this stigma.
I'd like to note that I'm not necessarily picking on this one person, I'm just fed up with this type of outdated, negative portrayal and I feel I have the platform to do something about it.
What I also found overwhelming was the fantastic reception of my responding blog post. You can read the comments here: Fighting back the stigma that "People with mental illness are just lazy"
The fantastic response reminds me that I'm not the only one who's fed up with negative depictions of mental illness, and stereotypical, stigmatising comments such as the one I mentioned above. Let's try and keep this discussion going, and fight mental health stigma.
Read more about how I am trying to tackle mental health stigma at DearestSomeone.com