I've been asked why all my poetry is about mental health.
I write about mental illness because it has almost killed me.
I write about mental illness because it might still kill me.
I write about mental illness for those who can't.
But most of all, I write about mental illness because of the stigma.
Don't try to tell me that the stigma is gone. Don't tell me the stigma is gone when my prof rolled his eyes when I told him that I couldn't finish my assignment on time because of a major depressive episode. Don't tell me the stigma is gone when the crisis worker I was talking to shuffled backwards when I mentioned my borderline personality disorder. Don't tell me the stigma is gone when my old housemate told me I couldn't be anorexic because I have meat on my bones. Don't tell me the stigma is gone when my academic adviser told me that university is supposed to be stressful and I just need to get over my anxiety.
It's the stigma that causes so many to not seek help. People are dying from illnesses that can be managed with ongoing treatment because they're too embarrassed to seek help. People are dying from illnesses that can be managed with ongoing treatment because they can't afford the treatment. My provincial insurance covers medical doctors but not therapists. Try telling me the stigma is gone when treatment for cancer is covered but treatment for depression isn't.
The only time my therapy was covered by provincial insurance was when I was in a locked ward. Think about that for a second. My therapy was only covered when I was locked away from society. As if they only wanted to help me when I couldn't run wild. Tell me again that the stigma is gone, when it assumed that humans with mental illnesses are a danger to society when the statistics show that someone who suffers from mental illness is more likely to be a victim of a violent crime then to be the perpetrator.
When considering taking time off of school to go to treatment, my social worker asked me if I would take time off school if I had cancer.
Of course, I replied.
Then why are you treating this any differently?
Because I'm scared of what grad schools will think if I take time off for mental illness.
Tell me again that the stigma is gone.
I dare you.