Part Two: Fighting Stigmas of Addiction and Depression, Maintaining Hope
Addiction and depression are taboo topics in society today. As a result, numerous misconceptions plague these disorders. Those suffering from addiction, depression or both may experience shame, guilt and fear. However, the tide has turned in recent years.
Millennials, in particular, have taken to social media to tear down this stigma. As a result, more people with addiction and mental illness are sharing their stories for the world to hear.
Substance Abuse and Stigma
People with addictions constantly battle stigma.
A 2014 study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that people are more likely to have negative feelings toward individuals with substance use disorders than those with mental disorders. Only 22 percent of respondents said they would work closely on a job with someone with a drug addiction. Many individuals in recovery are reluctant to share their personal stories. However, more people publicly acknowledge their disorders today than ever before, thanks in part to recovery walks, public rallies and social media.
In October 2015, thousands of people gathered at the Washington Monument for UNITE to Face Addiction, an anti-stigma rally. The goal was to break the silence of addiction and discuss potential solutions.
“So long as we keep ourselves in the shadows, we will remain in the shadows,”
said Chris Poulos, a third-year law student at the University of Maine who was addicted and homeless as a teenager, told The Washington Post. Jason Snyder, who struggled with addiction for years, says he never felt quite right in his own skin until he sought treatment and began his road to recovery. “Treatment works, and recovery is possible,” he told The Washington Post. “I was afraid to tell anybody. I was afraid to seek help because … it had the potential to dismantle me.”
Depression and Stigma
Only 62 percent of respondents in the Johns Hopkins study said they would work with someone with mental illness. This indicates that a stigma related to mental disorders exists as well.
People suffering from depression experience belittlement and disparagement. They are often perceived as sensitive or dramatic. This shame can further damage the depressed individual’s psyche and discourage them from seeking treatment. Like those in recovery, more people with mental illnesses are sharing their stories.
Amy Bleuel, who grappled with depression and suicidal thoughts, launched Project Semicolon, a movement dedicated to those struggling with mental illness. “People want to know they’re not suffering in silence,” Bleuel told The Washington Post. “We want to have that discussion. We’re done losing people to suicide; we’re done not knowing what to do.”
Michael Landsberg, a Canadian sportscaster with depression, said this stigma is most damaging not when others see it, but when the person experiencing the disorder does. Giving in to the stigma, he said, is a sign of weakness. He encourages people to approach their illness by stating,
“I suffer from a mental-health problem; I have depression; this has taken a lot from my life.”
Earlier this year, Landsberg started #SickNotWeak, a social media campaign intended to establish a sense of community among those affected by stigma. People from all over the world used the hashtag, he said. It was an overwhelming yet powerful response.
“The best way to show someone you’re not weak is to show it with strength,” he said.
Bio: Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. He boasts several years of experience writing for a daily publication, multiple weekly journals, a quarterly magazine and various online platforms. He has a bachelor’s degree in communication, with a Journalism concentration, from East Carolina University.
Keep being well,