#ImNotAshamed tackles the stigma of mental illness

imnotashamed

A small but growing awareness campaign is taking place on Twitter this week, as people dealing with mental health issues stand up and say #ImNotAshamed. They are disclosing the issues they cope with, the treatments that help them, and most of all, the fact that those things are no reason to feel shame.

Shame so often stands in the way of seeking help, but it often seems that society would prefer that people keep their mental health issues locked away and invisible. The hashtag’s creator, Rachel Griffin, spoke to The Washington Post about why she wants people to disclose, instead.

“When you ignore it or don’t seek treatment for a long time it tends to get more and more difficult. It just takes over,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s a scary place to be in when you’re fearing your own mind.”

To talk to Griffin, a spunky, fast-talking singer-songwriter, no one would suspect the dark, cyclical thoughts that sometimes permeate her mind. It’s why she has, in recent months, taken to writing openly about her lifelong experiences with mental illness. With 1 in 4 people experiencing mental illness in any given year, but only 60 percent of adults with it seeking treatment, Griffin has made it a personal mission to normalize the illness.

It’s a laudable goal, but it hasn’t come without its detractors. Though the #ImNotAshamed hashtag mostly features people talking about their own stories, there are others who have taken to it to rail against the use of medication and other mental health treatments.

This is the Internet, after all, and some people would prefer to perpetuate stigma than to fight it.

Still, many brave individuals have opened up about their mental health journeys in the hashtag.

No one should feel obligated to disclose their mental health issues on Twitter. Some people can’t without putting their families, careers, or well-being at risk. Others aren’t ready or interested in discussing the subject in a public venue. But if you’re open about your own mental health issues and eager to push back against the stigma, this might be a good week to join in and declare #ImNotAshamed.