Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU!* Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here. Please share this essay as I feel it is tremendously important that we begin to shatter the stigma of mental health. Tweet, FB it, send to a friend, Instagram it. Whatever you can do. We are very proud of Giana!
By Giana Masso
When we think about mental illness, we too often picture the horror movie images: straight jackets, padded rooms, electroshock therapy, insane asylums.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why these portrayals in horror movies are entertaining, and chilling. We look at these characters as monsters, because they’re often violent, delusional, or dangerous in general. However, this caricature of mental illness is not entirely harmless in its value as entertainment.
What we see in the media changes the way we perceive real experiences. For example, if someone constantly sees news reports on how violent pit bulls are, it would be easy to make assumptions and develop a fear of pit bulls. This applies to the way we discuss mental illness as well. We only talk about mental illness in a time of tragedy. It makes these illnesses into characters, almost. Depression is associated with acting unreasonably, Anxiety is associated with rushed decision making. Bipolar disorders are associated with displays of moody, angsty reactions. We don’t see people with mental illnesses as people anymore: we see them as the illnesses themselves.
One of the best ways to end the stigma of mental illness is to stop the silence. We need to encourage people with mental illnesses to speak out about their struggles. When we don’t talk about mental illnesses, it makes them illusive, mysterious — more like what we see in the movies and less like what they actually are.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20% of teenagers ages 13-18 live with mental health conditions. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in people from 10-24. It is clear that there are people who are struggling with mental health problems, but seem to feel too embarrassed to ask for help. They may be afraid of what other people think, or maybe they are too afraid to admit it to themselves. But the statistics don’t lie: mental health problems are affecting our generation; we need to make a change.
So here it goes. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Giana. I’m a highschool student. I play piano, my favorite color is yellow. I love coffee and I have two dogs. I’m in our school play. I’m involved in marching band. And I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I also have depression related to it. I live with mental illness; I have done so my entire life. However, my illness isn’t the most dominant part of me: I’m a visionary, an artist, a writer, a daughter, a musician, a friend, a sister. I am a person. These are the things that make me who. I am not just my mental illnesses.
I am tired of participating in the silence in regard to mental illness. We can make a difference by speaking out, but it starts on the individual level. So, yes, my name is Giana, I live with mental illness. I am a person.
Giana Masso is: Writer. Visionary. Musician. Mental health advocate. Lover of art, pugs, and all things comedy. Follow her on instagram at @Gianamasso.