Tell me a story….

Stories have an amazing way of allowing us to see things in a different light. Here’s a story I heard this week.

Research has shown that the most stigma and discrimination a person living with mental illness will receive is not from their family, friends or even their community. In fact the most stigma and discrimination they will experience will be from the medical practitioners they have sought out for help.

To think that the person you seek out to help you with advice, medication or treatment will be the one who is judging you the most harshly.

Quite often when we talk about mental illness we talk about stigma and discrimination. It is the one the main factor which stops people from getting help or talking about their experiences.

It comes in many forms like shunning someone socially, using language that is derogatory or not hiring someone who has disclosed their illness.

We know that when a society can openly have a conversation about a complex issue it creates change. We just have to look at the Rosie Effect, a term created by the Domestic Violence sector when Rosie Batty stood up and spoke out about what was once taboo. Her story and her empowering the voiceless has seen more women reporting violence, seeking help and services having a surge in demand.

Big campaigns like the ABC’s Mental As started that for mental illness, but we still have a long way to go. Stopping the stigma around it is key to helping people living with an illness or a loved one coming to terms with it.

Did you know that when you voted on July 2nd South Australia had lost $22m in funding for mental health services?

Perhaps if we were open about talking and sharing stories of mental illness drastic cuts like this would not be going under the radar but making daily headlines.

Instead we get the opposite. Through the media we see stigma every day and again it can be subtle or overt. The subtlest form is with the images used when stories are written about mental health.

How often do we see a person cowering or with their head in their hands accompanying a piece about mental illness?

Recently SANE and Getty Images undertook research that looked at how people with a lived experience reacted to these kinds of images in the media. What they found was the vast majority of respondents wanted to see images that depicted the human side of mental illness – images that place people in everyday situations and not in despair.

By putting people in an everyday context we can create a conversation and story about mental illness that is not only real but also positive.

So how do we fix this?

Well, as I began, stories have an amazing way of allowing us to see things in a different light.

The online community of mindshare is a hub of storytelling. Whether it is in visual arts, photography, moving image, poetry or creative writing. It is a place where people with a lived experience of mental illness, and their carers and supporters, can express what life is like for them.

And it doesn’t just have to be about mental illness. It can be anything from the joy of birth to the death of a pet, and everything in between.

Because you see at the end of the day we all have mental health yet for some it can be tougher to manage than others. But the fact that we all have it is reason enough to stop the stigma.

Do you have a story about your mental health you would like to share?

Enter in to the mindshare creative writing awards here.

Guest Blogger: Louise Pascale