This is a Mental Health Bell: A Symbol of Hope – which was created in 1953 made of all the chains and shackles from mental asylums in the United States. The bell is now the symbol of the oldest mental health advocacy group – Mental Health America.
I am a person who lives with bipolar illness and I am also an activist. I desire to be a part of social change.
There is a movement in the world of mental health awareness. More people are beginning to come forward and own their illness publicly. Where you see the most of this happening is with social media. There are many twitter accounts and blogs of people who live with mental illness advocating for change. Expressing their viewpoints openly, honestly and courageously.
But what is the change we seek?
I am interested in bringing awareness of mental health conditions and eliminating stigma so people will not feel ashamed to seek help. I don’t want to feel patronized or discriminated against because I have publicly declared I live with a mental illness. I chose to share my personal struggle because I wanted to help participate in social change. I want the young people I talk too to know you can live with a severe mental illness and still be successful.
But I have to tell you even in the places where you would think pure advocates would exists stigma flows well. There is a term people use to describe those of us who live with a mental illness it is called “consumer.” I don’t care for consumer because it implies that I am different from everyone else. It rings with “less than” and sort of implies I am my diagnosis. But the word is not going away anytime soon. And neither are prevailing attitudes about people who live with a mental illness.
Change takes time
In 1909 the first Mental Health Advocacy organization was created by a man named Clifford Beers who lived with bipolar illness. He was hospitalized for three years and was subjected to poor treatment at the hands of his caretakers. At one point he was placed in a straight jacket for 21 days. He was also a profound business person on Wallstreet and a Yale graduate. A year after he was released from the institution he started a movement that helped change lives.
Now is the time
I have discovered that now is my time to ring that bell. With so many courageous people who have lived before me to show the way on how to become an activist, I am up for the challenge.
The time is now to join the movement. If you are reading this blog I want to encourage you to get involved in social change. Join an advocacy group, write a blog, tweet, form a support group, use your voice and ring that bell!
“I decided to stand on my past and look my future in the face.” ~Clifford Beers, Founder Mental Health America