The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines stigma as, “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.” For those living with mental illness, stigma is a part of everyday life. The myths and stereotypes associated with mental health issues are harmful and create barriers in virtually every aspect of society. Stigma generates problems for one’s social life, education, professional life, medical treatment, and finances. This discrimination is based on false beliefs society has about those with psychiatric disorders. When people become more educated about mental illness, stigma will diminish.
Throughout my battle with mental illness, I’ve received some alarming comments and questions, sadly some even from medical professionals:
“You don’t look like someone with mental illness.”
“Are you just hormonal?”
“Is it boyfriend problems?”
“Just stop worrying so much.”
“Do you have an addiction problem?”
“I’d never go to therapy. People would think I’m crazy.”
“You were in a mental hospital? Were people tied to beds?”
“Why do you have a service dog if you don’t have a real disability?”
“You’ll get over it eventually.”
Stigma is not just an excuse people with mental illness use when they don’t get what they want or feel something isn’t fair. It’s a real issue. I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed when people ask why I couldn’t just finish college. I shouldn’t have to be embarrassed to tell people that I’m not able to work right now. I shouldn’t have to worry that I will never get married. I shouldn’t be afraid that I might get denied a job, medical attention, housing, or fair treatment under the law because of what other people think about the state of my mental health. There needs to be a change.
Why Lick Stigma?
Two things I’m passionate about are the quest to end mental health stigma and my psychiatric service dog, Joey. I wanted to combine these two passions and create a way to educate about service dogs AND end stigma. To lick means to “beat” or to “defeat,” and of course, what word is better for a dog than lick? So Lick Stigma represents my mission to spread awareness and defeat mental health stigma.
I will use it as a slogan for some Joey-related products, as a hashtag on social media pages, and on his new Twitter account @LickStigma. A way you can support the cause is by using the hashtag #LickStigma on social media!
Joey and I thank you for joining us on this journey. We can change how the world thinks about mental health issues and create better lives for everyone touched by mental illness. Lick Stigma!
Please check out my newest video if you haven't already: Allie's Story