For all the progress we are making in removing the stigma from mental illness, there is no denying that it still exists, or that its pervasiveness is incredibly damaging to those who struggle with mental health issues. Perhaps this is because it is difficult for people to contextualize feelings that they don't understand, or because mental health is nowhere near as visible or obvious as physical health. Regardless, dismissive or even insulting behavior toward people with mental health issues continues to be a hot-button issue. That is exactly why Amber Smith took to Facebook to share before and after pictures of her anxiety attack. She wanted to show people that although it is not apparent in her everyday life, the anxiety she feels is still very, very real. Her caption begins:
Top picture: What I showcase to the world via social media. Dressed up, make up done, filters galore. The 'normal' side to me.
Bottom picture: Taken tonight shortly after suffering from a panic attack because of my anxiety. Also the 'normal' side to me that most people don't see.
It is incredibly important that Smith uses the word "normal" to describe herself both before and in the aftermath of her anxiety attack, because that's exactly what it is: normal. And in talking about it and opening a dialogue, she comes one step closer to lifting the taboo off of talking about it, and freeing those who suffer from the same feelings of the stigma that comes with sharing them.
The rest of the caption reads:
I'm so sick of the fact that it's 2016 and there is still so much stigma around mental health. It disgusts me that so many people are so uneducated and judgemental over the topic. They say that 1 in 3 people will suffer with a mental illness at some point in their life. 1 in 3! Do you know how many people that equates to worldwide?! And yet I've been battling with anxiety and depression for years and years and there's still people that make comments like 'you'll get over it', 'you don't need tablets, just be happier', 'you're too young to suffer with that'
FUCK YOU. Fuck all of you small minded people that think that because I physically look 'fine' that I'm not battling a monster inside my head every single day.
Someone actually said this to me one day 'aren't you too young to be suffering with anxiety and depression? What do you actually have to be depressed about at your age?' Wow, just wow.
I'm a strong person, I've been through my fair share of crap in life (the same as anyone else) and I will be okay. I have the best family and friends around me and I am thankful everyday that they have the patience to help and support me.
To anyone who is going through the same, please do not suffer in silence. There is so much support around - Don't be scared to ask for help.
This is why I can't stress enough that it costs nothing to be nice to others. Don't bully others, don't put others down and the hardest one of them all (as we have all done it at some point) don't judge another person. We're all human regardless of age, race, religion, wealth, job. So build one another up instead of breaking each other down.
Peace & love guys ☮❤
The encouraging news is that the post has since racked up over 7,000 shares (at time of writing), with plenty of people commenting and messaging in support and thanking Smith for her bravery in being so open about her struggle. In light of the attention the post has garnered, she added this very important note to the bottom: "Please don't be afraid to share this, there needs to be more awareness. The more awareness there is, the less people who will suffer in silence."
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