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Every year, about 42.5 million American adults suffer from some form of mental illness: depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, et cetera. Unfortunately many people perceive symptoms of mental illness as threatening and uncomfortable, and this perception frequently fosters a stigma and even discrimination towards people suffering from mental illness. This stigma makes it even more difficult for persons suffering symptoms of a mental illness to seek treatment or even speak about their issues openly.

I can confidently attest to that last statement, because I have experienced it firsthand. For me it was self-stigma that kept me from taking medication for a long time.  I was more worried about what others would think about me than I was about fixing the issue. The idea of having to take medication to be happy was appalling to me as well; I thought if I can’t be happy naturally, then I’d rather be miserable. Eventually I wasn’t having issues with depression as much as I was with anxiety. I started having panic attacks and I finally decided to get on some medication to deal with that. The medication did help with the anxiety and I took it only as needed (I no longer need it thankfully).

The reason I shared a little portion of my experience is because a Twitter hashtag inspired me to: #BellLetsTalk is trending on twitter and tackling the stigma of mental health. They were also raising funds for mental health initiatives by doing so. It is refreshing to see social media being used in a positive and productive manner. If you know someone suffering from a mental illness, please be the encouragement they need to not be ashamed, and to seek treatment.

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