'Bell, Let's Talk' mental health awareness campaign is happening right now, an issue that's near and dear to me both personally and relationally. The word 'stigma' is at the forefront of current discussion and I felt the need to address it. The stigma around mental illness is because we perceive that a person is broken or damaged like a toaster or a car.
My paternal grandfather was a victim of stigma during the second world war and as a result took his own life. I am ever grateful to him for the teaching he brought to me unknowingly through his great sacrifice. He didn't know the legacy he would leave, not only by suicide, but also the way his close friends and family would be silenced- making me ever curious about him. We don't know much about his demise except that he was deeply affected by young Canadian's going to Europe, arriving to a bloodbath and not coming home.
Canadian Mental Health Association states: "According to the World Health Organization (WHO), someone around the globe commits suicide every 40 seconds. In the year 2000, 815,000 people lost their lives to suicide — more than double the number of people who die as a direct result of armed conflict every year (306,600). For people between the ages of 15 and 44, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death and the sixth leading cause of disability and infirmity worldwide." Therefore, a massive and confusing issue
I hold a strong belief that mental health struggles and creativity go together. I wonder if there's a way to start seeing brain anomalies as great gifts of expressing oneself rather than dirty family secrets. Creative people are hyper sensitive to their environments allowing them to produce music, visual art, dance, poetry... The list can go on, creativity has no bounds. If we want to change the stigma we must first look upon a condition differently. It is common for someone with Mental health challenges to be chaotic and unpredictable. There are many story-worthy creative pillars throughout history that we now revere but who were stigmatized during their lifetime. Van Gough, Amy Winehouse, Robin Williams, Michelangelo. For the most part, in their lifetime, people around the great's would have chosen to 'fix' them, make them easier to live with, But the unanswerable question is; would we have had their genius without their sensitivities and chaos? Do madness and genius co-exist and if so, is this where the conversation of stigma should begin?
The Ancient Greeks believed that creativity came from the gods, in particular the Muses (the mythical personifications of the arts and sciences, the nine daughters of Zeus (the king of the Greek Gods). Lord Byron said it well, "We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched".
Individuals with mental illness are said to display a capacity to see the world in a novel and original way; literally, to see things that others cannot.
society wants to change, fix and judge rather than support..... Stigma begins there. A person with disabilities is not broken like a toaster, or a disgrace (as the definition of stigma describes). I think it is a simple matter of sensing that
I have lived a lifetime with a compromised nervous system. I have had many debilitating depressions and anxieties and as a result been stigmatized. I will never know if my life would have been easier had I been accepted and my creativity been celebrated. I do know that being sensitive and weird subjected me to bullying and in turn my self worth was damaged and has affected me everyday of my life. Here is the cycle as I see it:
1. anxiety/depression 2. creative ideation & execution (chaos) 3. external judgment/oppression 4. sensitivity to environment 5. sensing others judgment leads to isolation & loneliness. Anger, fear, addiction etc. can be plugged in there too. Removing stigma begins at home or close to home and embracing the genius that exists in creativity.