succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Mental Health and being judgemental

I'm in this group, Active Minds*, and part of our 'mission' is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health. We do various activities, but a large part of reducing that stigma, in our opinions, is very personal - for example, if I tell my friends about going to therapy last week in the same way that I might mention going to the movies or attending a seminar, hopefully, it normalizes it a little. If I talk about what I went through this summer, and my other friends share their experiences, it makes it all seem more common (which it is) and a lot less weird. The whole idea is that the more you realize you know people and are friends with people with mental health issues the less judgemental you'll be about them in a more general sense. And yet...

Last night Active Minds hosted a panel on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and one of the members of our group shared her story about suffering from PTSD last summer after a particularly harrowing car accident. And I have to admit, my very first gut reaction was, it was a car accident! Get over it! Not exactly the 'safe space' reaction I'm supposed to have. So I have to admit that I'm also judgemental about these sorts of things. Even when it comes to me - I have to deal with the fact that part of me keeps thinking, it was just a test! It's only school! Get over it already. Which, you know, isn't really helpful.

*Active Minds was started by my amazing friend Alison. I met Ali four summers ago, when I was interning in DC. Her brother had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and sometime later committed suicide. Her way of dealing with it was to start this group on her college campus at Penn, to try to help other college students realize that they had resources available to them. A few years later I found out Ali had moved to DC and Active Minds had become a non-profit, with local chapters on 24 college campuses around the country, with five more in the works. Because she's amazing like that.


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