Expanding the narrative of mental illnesses.

Today I’m writing about why your voice is important, and about why it deserves to be heard.

The stereotypes of mental illnesses portray a narrative; a story of what it means to be mentally ill. These stories are often limiting, damaging and aren’t the full story. They often don’t capture the experience of having a mental illness, and being a person beyond that.

The stereotypical story tells of what it should look like to be mentally ill, of what it should feel like to be mentally ill, and of who you should be if you are mentally ill.

A young, thin white woman who has a feeding tube and suddenly is miraculously recovered but is still very thin and doesn’t eat carbs, is the story of an eating disorders.

Self-harm is a lost, slightly confused teenager, who just needs to be requited with their crush and then they will be cured

Depression is a short stint with feeling a bit glum, but once you smile more and think positive, everything is sunshine and rainbows.

Need I go on?

These stereotypes aren’t just false, but they are also harmful. They spread the message that to be sick and to get treatment, your experiences have to mirror these stories.


That’s not to say that actual, lived experiences of mental illnesses do not contain some of these elements, as they certainly might. However they are so much more than these simplistic, one-dimensional viewpoints.

Eating disorders are messy. They can involve screaming, sobbing, your hair falling out, gaining weight, losing weight, eating, or not eating, isolation, obsession, disgusting ways of hiding and getting rid of food, pushing away those closest to you. They are definitely not a diet gone too far, or a supreme example of self-control.

Eating disorders can affect any person, of any weight, gender, race, socio-economic status, geographic location, sexual orientation, religion and age.

They involve food, yes, but they are also involve so much more. They are an accumulation of a lifetime of chemicals, experiences and circumstances. 

They are so much broader, and deeper, than a false impression of Anorexia.

And this is just with eating disorders.

There is a plethora of damaging stereotypes surrounding the lesser spoken about mental illnesses – schizophrenia, psychosis and dissociative identity disorder just to name a few. Stereotypes consisting of violence and fear, casting cowardly shadows on an already deeply discriminated community.

These false impressions do no good, and they do not serve a purpose in healing, in well-being, or in a society fighting the stigma against mental illnesses.

So this is what we must do, despite being afraid and despite not fitting in with what mental illnesses are deemed to look and be like. Share our stories, the messy, horrible and happy parts. The spectrum of emotion that goes with being a human with a mental illness, rather than a mental illness itself.

Share the good parts, the bad parts, the confusing parts. Share the parts that don’t fit in with the stereotypes, and those that may do too, to show that we are more than a singular, flat existance.

Share that there are many roads and paths to recovery, and that recovery does not look the same for everyone. For some, recovery is about eliminating symptoms, and for others, it’s about learning how to live alongside them. Some paths are short and others are long. Some are well-supported while others are not. 

All of these voices can, and should contribute to what being a person with a mental illness means. A myraid of perspectives, a full sky of meaning, a vast and brilliant constellation of being human, and of one that experiences hard things.

Try not to be afraid to share your voices my sweet friends.

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20 thoughts on “Expanding the narrative of mental illnesses.

  1. WONDERFUL post Kaitlyn! I believe in telling my own story! Hence why I began blogging. Thank you for expressing the importance of this.♡
    Also I want to expand my voice so I may be contacting you soon🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank-you so much wonderful Eve! I’m so happy that you are sharing your story – you are doing great work! And I’m intrigued about you expanding your voice, so I’ll look forward to that. Hope you are having a lovely day 😊💛

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  2. Hey Kaitlyn, I definitely think you’re on the right track with this. I am someone who has been given various mental health labels in the past, and I have also worked in mental health. These days, after doing a lot of reading and contemplation and research, I have realised that the biomedical model of mental illness is itself the symptom of a sick society. Although human beings are often mentally dis-eased or dis-ordered, that doesn’t mean that the classification system of DSM and pill popping is the answer. Over a long period I have developed my own more holistic view of mental health, in which I have concluded that society itself has to drastically change for good mental health. It is not something that can be treated effectively on an individual basis. If you look on the Core Story part of my webpage over the next few days, I will be adding what I see as ‘the 13 bases for well-being’. These are backed up by plenty of research. I commend your blog . Keep going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank-you so incredibly much for sharing this with me! It is really enlightening, and has definitely opened my eyes to thinking about mental illnesses as a societal problem rather than an individual one. So thank-you, so very much for sharing your research and insight! I’ll be sure to check out your webpage soon; I’m quite keen to learn more. Keep up your good work, and thanks so much for the support 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an absolutely brilliant post and so damn TRUE. Society is full of harmful stereotypes and almost caricatures of what mental health sufferers are – and until people start to change that narrative, the wider audience won’t be able to understand xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank-you so much lovely Mia! And I completely agree about there being caricatures too of what people with mental illnesses are – it is damaging to say the least. Gotta keep on moving forward to change it 😊 xo

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Mental health is a topic that is being discussed more, especially in recent years, but we still have a ways to go in how it’s talked about and portrayed. I’ve heard so many professionals, including those that work in the mental health field, make ignorant comments and assumptions about various disorders. You are so right that eating disorders are much more than what we see on movies, tv, etc. I had no idea how it could affect every aspect of a person’s life until I had one. I was surprised at all the ways it took form in me and realized how different it is than what I read about in short articles or textbooks.

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    1. Thank-you so much for sharing your perspective and insight! I couldn’t agree more about how eating disorders are so much more impactful than what is shown in media and books, and how this must be the same for many other mental illnesses too! It’s good that the discussion is beginning, but as you said there is still a long way to go 😊

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  5. hi kaitlyn, although I really just started out blogging, I just wanted to tell you that this post really hit deep for me and that it’s the main reason I want to start writing about my eating disorder on a blog. thank you for shedding light onto this topic and rising the awareness for the wrong stigma that goes along eating disorders or any mental illnesses for that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lilly, thank-you so incredibly much for your sweet words! It means so, so, so much to me to know that my words resonate with your experiences so deeply. Thank-you also for being so willing and receptive to joining in to shed the light on these topics. It’s a hard, but totally worth it thing to do, and I’m excited to see how your words can help to bring about change xx

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