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Mental health disorders: Why should I share my story?



Mental health covers a broad subject matter – much more than many of us realize. For every condition or illness that is common knowledge, there are others we either haven’t heard of or don’t understand fully. 


On the less common end of the scale, we have disorders such as Diogenes Syndrome, where individuals hoard uncontrollably, or Capgras Syndrome, where an individual believes a loved one has been replaced by an imposter. If you suffer from a rare disorder of this kind, where do you even begin to look for personalized support? 


Even more common disorders can be much more complex and nuanced than we originally believed. Take one of the most well-known issues, depression, for example. Depression is generally defined as a low mood or loss of pleasure or interest in activities for long periods of time.


But what causes depression? Unsurprisingly, there is no one answer. It could be a side-effect of situation-induced PTSD, a natural chemical imbalance in the brain, or any other number of factors. 


The breadth and nuance of mental health struggles is simply overwhelming. How can we, as a society, hope to provide support for such wide-ranging problems? 

The person behind the issue

Despite how varied mental health issues can be, they all have one thing in common. Behind the disorder, there is a human being who is suffering.


Whether it is an eating disorder or the effects of gun violence, the people affected directly are often the most qualified to speak about the specifics of their struggle. This is why peer-based support works so well. Sufferers of a particular disorder recognize the emotional toll in others and are better able to identify with the support worker on a deeper level. 


The same is also true for sharing your story.


Sharing your story in a public forum offers a lifeline for fellow sufferers – and for yourself. It can draw attention to an almost unknown issue or shed a unique light on a more well known one. People who speak out find that there are often deep benefits to sharing. 1. It encourages reflection


If we visualize mental health as a journey, we are all at a particular point. You may be further along that road than someone else and sharing your story allows you to understand the challenges you have already overcome. 


Although you may still have more to do, taking the time to recognize what it’s taken to reach where you are is a cathartic exercise. It provides the space to see how far you have come, which can give you strength for what’s left.

2. It helps you accept yourself


By reflecting more deliberately on your own struggles and journey, it can change how you view yourself. For example, many sufferers feel defined by their mental health struggle. It is common for people with PTSD to see themselves as “broken humans” rather than what they are – an individual recovering from a traumatic experience. 


The act of sharing a story and reflecting can help people to separate themselves from the illness, making them feel more empowered as a result. 

3. It allows you to connect


Feeling alone is a common side effect of many mental health issues. It’s something of a psychological trick where you feel that you are the only one to have ever experienced it in this way. 


As a result, sufferers will frequently feel disconnected from others. They feel alone. 


By sharing your story honestly, many people will be surprised to find out just how much their story resonates with others, allowing the sharer to connect to individuals in a way they were unable to before.

4. It offers a lifeline to others


The previous points can all work from the other side. People who read or hear your story can get immense benefit from your experience. They may not be as far down the road as you, but, through you, they can see a light at the end of the tunnel. 


And this can, sometimes literally, save a life.

The courage to fight stigma

There’s no doubt that, for an individual, sharing their story can be daunting or even terrifying. For whatever reason, we are hardwired as a society to build stigmas around mental health issues that take a lot of work to break down. 


Statistics show that, worldwide, only 16.5% of individuals with depression try to find support, with mental health stigma being one of the main reasons for not doing so. But shockingly, around half the population of the world will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime. 


It’s true that times are changing to a certain extent. There is more energy being put into speaking openly about mental health, whether in the workplace, on social media, or among families. Elected officials, for the most part, are also improving their responses to the mental health needs of their constituents. 


But there is nothing quite as powerful as when a person shares their lived experience. Yes, it takes a huge amount of courage – but this is directly proportional to the positive impact it can have. 

Your words affect change

At MHAI, we want to encourage people to share their own experiences and raise awareness of what they have gone through. It doesn’t matter if it is a “common” issue like depression or an almost unheard of one like Diogenes Syndrome. 


Every voice is unique, powerful, and can inspire others to take that all-important step to tackling their issue. If you have a story to tell, please let us know and we can offer you a platform to help others – and help yourself. 


Contact our organization today at  info@mhai.org or (312) 368-9070.

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