How To Wear Your Mental Illness On Your Sleeve And Help Raise Awareness

September 2, 2019

No one deserves to suffer in silence. 

As humans, we know our bodies are fallible.

We are prone to colds, the flu and even broken bones. When we are sick, we take medicine until we feel better without giving it a second thought. So why don’t we do the same when our brains get sick?

The stigma that surrounds mental illness is gradually being broken down as more and more people speak openly about their struggles but unfortunately, we still exist in a judgemental society that hasn’t quite caught up.

This judgment can hang over our heads and make a mental illness diagnosis seem all the more overwhelming. The thing is, it doesn’t need to be.

Around 46.6 million people suffer from a mental illness within the span of a year. This means that one in five US adults have or are currently suffering from a mental illness. Of this substantial number of people, one-in-twenty-five experience a mental illness so severe that it interferes with major life activities.

The numbers stack up.

Mental illness is literally as common as the flu, and we need to treat it as such.

Gradually, we are starting to become more aware of the gravity of conditions such as anxiety and depression, taking a step in the right direction as a society.

However, serious conditions such as BPD, eating disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar and more continue to exist underneath a taboo that needs some serious attention.


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The only way to get rid of this stigma is to smash through it. We need to raise awareness and be educated about conditions that affect such a large proportion of the population.

We need to start being open with one another.

I let the stigma of mental illness stop me from treating my anxiety and it left me isolated, alone and in the darkest place I’ve ever been. Coming clean and opening up about my mental illness was terrifying but it’s alleviated the pressure of pretending to be fine. Admitting I was struggling wasn’t easy but it’s gotten me the help I needed and started some really important conversations too.

There is a certain privilege that exists in having a condition that society is becoming accustomed to, so I understand that not everyone is in a position where they feel comfortable to let the world in.

That being said, there are a number of things you can do to start raising awareness surrounding mental illness. Silence is the birthplace of stigma so talking about it is one of the most empowering things we can do.

Now, this can be incredibly difficult so I’ve compiled a little list of the things that helped me in my journey to being an advocate for mental illness.

1. Be honest with yourself first

Before you can open up, it’s important that you check in with yourself first. Being diagnosed with a mental illness can change the course of your life depending on the severity and the necessary treatment so exercise self-care.

How are you feeling? Who do you want to tell? How much do you want to share, if any? 

These are some questions that might be helpful as you come to terms with your condition.

In my experience, journaling is an amazing way to clear your head as you gather your thoughts and put them to the page. There are journals specifically designed for assisting the management of mental health conditions. Getting into the habit of tracking your thoughts and feelings can be useful in articulating them to other people.

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2. Establish a solid self-care routine

Again, this is one of those foundational things that it’s good to establish before doing anything else.

Mental illness can be so draining and stressful so you need to know how to look after yourself before you start trying to help others.

I am a big believer in the power of a self-care Sunday.

Now, this doesn’t have to happen on a Sunday of course but set aside a block of time each week that you dedicate to looking after yourself from the inside out.

Every self-care routine is going to look different so customize this to whatever brings you some relief. Try going for a walk, having a bubble bath, meditating or even just sitting in the sun for a little while. Self-care runs deeper than skincare but doing a face mask and moisturizing can also be a great way to reset and feel refreshed and pampered.

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3. Start small

Being open and honest about your mental health is a journey, so don’t try to get there in one day.

You don’t need to scream about your condition from the rooftops to raise awareness and break down stigmas. You can start small.

The thing about stigma is that breaking them has a flow-on effect. If one person rejects a stereotype and they raise their voice, others will do the same.

Telling even one person about your struggle can be such a positive exchange for both parties.

They might learn something new or you may realize they have been in a similar situation. Either way, open communication is beneficial for everyone involved when raising awareness about mental illness.

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4. Spark up some conversations

It’s time to talk about it.

Telling a trusted friendship circle is a great way to build up some confidence as you speak out about what you’re going through. It seems scary but these people will love and support you no matter what. Truth be told, it’s likely they have noticed somethings up and just don’t know how to bring it up.

Starting a conversation about mental health doesn’t have to be confronting. It’s as simple as addressing how you feel.

I told my friends about my anxiety while we were out for coffee.

“Hey guys, I’ve been really wanting to talk to you about some stuff I’ve been going through’, was enough to start a conversation where we learned that we shared very similar struggles.

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5. Get social

With the power of social media at our fingertips, we have the ability to influence large amounts of people from our own bedrooms.

If you’re up to it, start posting about your mental health journey.

Social media is where change is made so even just supporting pages who are advocating for awareness is a great way to help the cause.

Even posting a selfie in a shirt that promotes self-care is advocating for mental health and supporting a positive conversation around taking care of our brains.

Go on, wear your mental illness on your sleeve.

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