Author Note: This article is part of a collection from the previously lost Bordering Bears website, and has thus been re-uploaded and archived.
Living with mental health and what you see on TV are usually worlds apart. Generally, the media portrayal of mental health usually goes one of two ways. While they are sometimes somewhat true, the majority of people suffering with mental health don’t fit into a shoehorned stereotype.
Option 1 – The Victim
This portrayal shows some kind of bad past, bullying, abuse etc, and seems to make excuses for the person time and time again. They can’t help it because of X. Let’s pity them because of Y.
Realistically, this will only make things worse, particularly with some kinds of mental illness that involve scapegoating.
Instead, it is far more important that, while you consider a person’s circumstances, they are still held accountable for their actions.
Option 2 – The Demon
The second way people with mental health conditions can be portrayed is as some evil entity. Bunny boilers, crazy exes… the list goes on. Particularly for a comedy aspect, mental health is seen as a big no-go. Yes, some people are genuinely that vindictive and callous, yet most of us wouldn’t behave like that. It simply encourages these negative stereotypes.
Personally, I also find it makes me feel ashamed of my condition and, occasionally, question my thoughts and feelings because of what I have seen.
Instead, it is important that you treat people as the individuals they are, the same way you would for every other characteristic.
Putting it simply, many people in the world have brown hair. Your shade of brown may be completely different to mine, yet they are both deemed as “brown”.
Mental health is the same. I have BPD and Anxiety. Someone else might have the same diagnosis but behave entirely differently, or exhibit different levels of symptoms.
I have received several messages from people since starting Bordering Bears to ask for my opinion on a loved one’s behaviour, or for advice on handling a situation. Simply put, I can give you my opinion, but it will be based on my thoughts. This may not be an accurate representation of your Borderling’s thoughts. Likewise, I can tell you what would assist me in a given circumstance, but this might not work for your loved one.
It is imperative that, when helping someone with their mental health, you are fully informed of their particular mind. Find out what they like and dislike, what their triggers are, what helps them when they reach breaking point.
Gaining support from medical professionals is important, particularly when ensuring care is in place, yet this isn’t always enough. There are too many combinations.
An example of this is movies. Some people might find that, when in a low place, watching a good, grizzly horror movie can help them find self-confidence. For me, it is more likely to trigger extra anxiety. This again shows how it isn’t one size fits all.
A take-away point from this article is definitely to treat people as individuals. We don’t like shoehorning. Bespoke is where it’s at. If you both put in the time, it can greatly benefit you both. They know they are safe with you, and you don’t have to walk on eggshells due to not knowing what does and doesn’t help.
Overall, the fact that you would take the time to try means a great deal. In a world of stereotypes and stigmas, it is always wonderful to associate with anyone who sees the person, not the diagnosis.