The Stigma of Mental Illness

Imagine this: You see a service member who has lost his or her leg on the battlefield. Immediately, you may feel a mixture of sadness and pride for their injuries in service to our country. Now imagine that same wounded service member’s body is completely intact, but they tell you they are suffering from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). Does that lessen your sympathy? Do you feel like they aren’t truly “wounded” because you can’t physically see their injuries?

All too often these invisible wounds of war come with a stigma attached. Similar to depression, many people don’t consider it to be a real illness because they cannot see it. They may see the effect it has on someone, but they assume that they will just get better with time. The difference between psychological health conditions and a physical wound is that people can’t see how it heals or, in most cases with mental illness, festers. Consider cancer, for example. We cannot detect it as easily as a leg amputation or an open wound, but it still hurts the individual who has it. When someone tells us they have cancer, our heart breaks for them and we feel sympathy for them and their family and friends. Why is this often not the case when someone tells us they’re suffering from a TBI?

This is why spreading awareness about the symptoms, effects, and treatment options for TBI and PTS is so important. Through awareness, we can work to educate people on what these conditions are really like and how they can completely change someone’s life. From outgoing to reclusive, from loving to unemotional, these conditions can make everyday life a serious challenge.

To help educate people about TBIs and PTS, you can share our posts on the prevalence of TBI and myths about returning from war. If you’ve experienced a TBI, consider sharing your story with others. People can and will relate to the real stories of those who have suffered the invisible wounds of war. Your story alone may encourage someone else to seek treatment and change their lives as well as the lives of all those around them.

Posted on April 23 2015 in Blog

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