Why Women Need to Speak Out About Mental Illness

Woman with face covered

Crazy bitch, nutty girl and insane chick are just a few insults that are hurled at women when someone catches wind that a female may have a mental illness.

If you ask me, I think the whole “crazy girl” insult-launching routine is so tired. It’s time to set the cliches aside and to start talking about mental illness in a factual manner.

Luckily, there are some people who are already having fact-based conversations about mental illness. For example, Demi Lovato, actress and singer, recently did a PSA about bipolar disorder. Lovato has this mental illness. The young pop idol did the PSA to shine a light on the mental illness and to reinforce that with the right treatment plan and diagnosis, people with the same diagnosis could still live happy, healthy lives.

It’s incredibly rad that Lovato is speaking out about her illness in general, but it’s especially great because women need to see other women talk frankly about mental health.

Positive conversations about mental illness ensure that those with depression, OCD, etc., don’t feel stigmatized by that inane “crazy girl” designation. Positive talk also ensures that female peers understand what their friends are going through.

So what else can be done to further a positive conversation about mental illness between women and their peers? XOJane has detailed a few stellar ways people can talk about mental illness. Here are some of the standout suggestions:

Even if you don’t have a mental illness, research it: The more correct information you know about mental illness, the better. If you’ve never experienced depression or felt crippled by anxiety, there’s no way you can really get what people affected by those illnesses are feeling. But if you read reliable articles and research about mental illness, you can develop compassion for your friends.

If you do suffer from a mental illness, it sometimes helps to read about your illness’ general symptoms. Reading about your illness can help you realize that no, you aren’t nuts – you just have an illness, and it can be treated.

Don’t try to diagnose yourself and never diagnosis a friend: The only way an outsider can tell if a person has a mental illness is if they have asked that person, and the person confirms their friend’s suspicion. Talking about how, “Sally doesn’t ever go out to lunch, so she must be anorexic,” isn’t helpful to you, or your friend. Coming to these generalized conclusions is a waste of time and inevitably hurtful to those of us suffering from mental illness.

If you suspect you may have an illness, go to a physician or therapist you trust and have an honest conversation: Don’t just assume you are or aren’t sick. The only way you can figure out what’s going on is to talk to someone and get a diagnosis.

And remember that your experience with mental illness may differ from your peers. No one has the same issues or triggers. And same goes for a friend who knows two family members who have bipolar disorder. Each person’s experience with the illness will be different.

Lastly, it’s important to learn about mental illness because these diseases are just a part of life: Mental illnesses aren’t negative, and aren’t positive – they just are. Never be afraid to get treatment, and never be afraid to have a positive conversation about mental illness with your best girlfriend. Facts and friendly conversations are the only things that can help destigmatize these common diseases.

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Image: Kiran Foster

Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.