Peering out of the Closet
Coming out of the closet has become synonymous with the LGBTQ community, and I do not, with this post, wish to diminish the fight the members of that group are waging to be accepted in our society. “Coming out,” though, can be equally applied to anyone who suffers from mental illness. Why? Stigma.
For many people, the term “mental illness” evokes images of raving lunatics, mass murderers, and patients abandoned and drooling in inhumane asylums. Popular culture has reinforced those ideas with movies like “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “12 Monkeys,” and tales of horrendous procedures like frontal lobotomies. Most mental illness, though, is an inner war caused by genetic and physiological factors over which the person has no control. However, they can be treated like any other disease. Unfortunately, stigma is usually stronger than reality, and the more people buy into it, the less likely the mentally ill are going to try to “come out” and seek the help they need.
Though I am on the inside looking out, I, too, have bought into the stigma for most of my life. I felt like damaged goods. I thought that if anyone knew what lurked inside, they would deem me crazy and lock me up. This idea must be challenged. In order to treat the problem, we must first be willing to admit there is one. “Coming out” is extremely hard to do, but it is a necessary step toward reclaiming our otherwise lost lives.