Welcome to the everyday stigma project. At least one in four people will experience some form of mental illness in their life, with the rest struggling to maintain their mental wellbeing at times. Yet all too often we don’t talk about the everyday challenges of mental health – and when we do, we use words like “crazy”, “nutter” and “loony”, which have now become accepted derogatory terms. Many people know that mental health is not something to deride but few will be educated about either the nuances of different conditions or the basic common struggles lived out offline, behind doors and only discussed in whispers.
Great strides have been made to improve attitudes to mental health in recent years, with campaigns like Time to Change and SANE as well as celebrities like the British Royal Family, Selena Gomez or Stormzy pushing for better media portrayals of mental illness. Yet the idea of mental illness as a weird, shameful and even amusing thing still persists in the media, at work, and in our interactions with others, both online and in real life.
Nine out of ten people with a mental illness report experiencing stigma and discrimination and while social media and the internet can connect those struggling with people who can help, it can also have the reverse effect. Young people in particular are feeling increasingly isolated, with studies suggesting that spending two hours a day on social media causes loneliness and depression and when people online do find the courage to speak up, they risk facing a backlash with the demonization of ‘generation snowflake’ and the mocking of ‘safe spaces’ contributing to the trivialization of mental health issues and the stigma attached.
The Everyday Stigma project aims to encourage everyone to treat mental illness the same way they treat physical illness, by breaking down taboos surrounding it and encouraging people to talk more and think twice about how they approach the topic. Maintaining mental wellbeing is difficult without the additional challenge of coping with a mental illness, hiding those challenges because of the stigma attached can cause additional stress and unhappiness as well as leading to a culture of silence and underreporting, which only intensifies problems for individuals and communities.
We hope that either anonymously or not you can honestly share your thoughts about the challenges of mental health but also the positive moments of progress, especially the opportunities social media can provide in fighting stigma.
So please, send us your stories. Tell other people to send us their stories. Send us your boyfriend’s story, your Grandma’s story, your best friend’s story, your colleague’s story. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you believe in. If you have experienced mental health stigma, just everyday, small, mundane, so-used-to-it-you-almost-just-accept-it discrimination, please share your story so we can take a step away from stigma and towards an open, easy and productive discussion of mental health, free of shame.
PLEASE NOTE, entries may be quoted in newspaper, online and magazine articles or in other Everyday Stigma publications.