By Quinn Nystrom

Americans observe the month of May as Mental Health Month, to assist with raising awareness about the one of five Americans who are affected by a mental illness. This year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chose to promote the theme of “CureStigma”. Stigma is defined as, “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.” Living with any type of medical condition is draining enough, but when as a society people stigmatize you because you are living with a mental illness, it can bring on more feelings of shame and silence.

For me personally, I look at getting diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a teenager as a very tough thing emotionally for me. But I don’t feel nervous to tell people that I have this disease, because most people understand that it’s an auto-immune disease and that I couldn’t do anything to prevent the diagnosis. Unfortunately, even in 2018, I think there are still a lot of misconceptions about people who have a mental illness. Did they cause it? Is it their fault? Can they just will themselves to get better? Are they mentally unstable? I waited 12 years to get help for my eating disorder. A large part of that was the feelings of shame and guilt with having a mental illness. I wish I wouldn’t have considered my type 1 diabetes in a different category from an eating disorder…because I believe I would’ve gotten help so much sooner if I had viewed them the same.

I’ve come a long way since then in my thinking. That’s why I’m so passionate about using my platform as a diabetes advocate, to speak out also about my personal struggles with an eating disorder. I believe it’s important that we work together to stop the stigma around mental illness. I can say that without question…going to eating disorder treatment saved my life. Without it, I’m unsure if I’d still be alive today. I want others to know who may be struggling in similar circumstances, that help is available, and that there are kind and compassionate people out there who will not judge you because of your medical condition.

There’s no easy cure for mental health conditions, but stigma can be cured. Can we all pledge today that we will work together to cure stigma?

To learn more about this year’s campaign click here.