Many people have been asking me lately why mental health superheroes. When we think about it, so many people who fight mental illness are similar to spiderman. They fight alone, in the dark and often at night. They put on a mask to interact with their family and friends that tries to shield them from all the full extent of the pain that they feel. Spiderman tries to shield his family and friends from knowing he is spiderman, from bringing them into his world and getting them hurt. Many of my friends and family members are or have been spiderman. I have been spiderman. We are trying to so hard to fit in, ashamed of what makes us different, of the pain we feel that we don’t understand or control. Instead of giving into the stigma of a misinformed society and assume being mentally ill makes us weak, seeing those who suffer in silence as superheroes recognizes that they are in fact fighting their own personal demons. Their own very own King Pin that exists inside of their head. That waking up everyday takes the strength of a superhero. Also looking at people with suffer from a mental health issue as a superheroes makes people want to stand behind them and help them instead of this culture of not understanding that we currently have.
So why iron man or intentional superhero? Discrimination is an interesting thing. My degree in psychology tells me that one of things that overcome negative feelings or expectations of a group is having a positive experiences with people in that group than having the group membership highlighted. By being spidermen, people never know that we are in this category of mentally ill. Even though they love us, they may still have many opinions about the mentally ill. By taking that hard step out and telling people, you show them that someone they love can have a mental illness. They might ask hard questions or not understand it, but eventually, they will *hopefully* learn that you have and will always be.. you. The person they love and care about. And begin to try and understand mental health in the true state of things through honest and meaningful conversations. By an Iron Woman, I have had conversations both easy and hard about being mentally ill. It’s taught me the true meaning of affecting change by learning before i can fix stigma, i have to learn what is stigma. Not all of my beliefs are free from stigma, it is a learning process. I have learnt so much, and I hope to share information by being an figure in society that people can come too if they want to have a conversation about what mentally ill means. On a more personal note, it allows me to be honest with whats happening. The relief I felt the first time I could say, I just having a bad depression day, to my friends and they understood was amazing. No more fighting and accusations of lies. I felt stronger by being honest with themselves and myself, because I stopped assuming they would not accept me for who I was, and gave them a chance too. We can be iron men and woman by even only ever telling our friends or family, we can change minds about mental illness in whatever way we are comfortable. I choose Ironman as the symbol here because he is a superhero who shows his true colors to the world… good or bad and people love him. In a way thats what I hope for our world, and I can see it happening. I see more and more people becoming iron men and woman every day. I have people seeing me being an intentional superhero and finding the strength to become one … whether they are suffering from a mental health issue or not.
Most importantly, you dont have to be someone with a mental illness to be an iron man or woman. You are an iron man for mental illness or intentional superhero if you know someone is mentally ill and you do what you do to be a good friend anyways. If you know it makes you uncomfortable but try and learn about it anyways. If you ask a question to try and understand what it means to be a mental health superhero, and start that conversation with a friend who has had a mental health issues, you are starting to be one. As my ML at mindyourmind.ca told me… you change opinions when you know someone belongs to a category but you do what you normally do anyways. Think of having a mental illness like any other illness. You would support your friend through making them smile, talking to them… doing all the things you would do to be a good friend. Some of you might even research what they have to understand it better. Mental health is no different, just less understood. SOOO many of you have been superheroes already… and you might not even know it.
So.. will you grab your cape and join us?