Out of Stigma’s Shadow

Out of Stigma’s Shadow

This podcast is part of Out of Stigma’s Shadow, an initiative to combat barriers to seeking behavioral healthcare by raising awareness, increasing visibility, and ending stigma surrounding mental health and substance use disorders. Hear from young people talking openly and honestly about their struggles with mental health.


May 7, 2023 12 mins

“I didn’t know what I was feeling.”

“I wish the urges would go away.”

“It was easy to hide.”

“Broken people can’t fix broken people, but I can’t help but try.”

In high school, an abstract sadness descended on Jada. She didn’t understand it, but it made her think about ending her life. For better or worse, she found a community of people online who were also struggling. They introduced Jada to the practice of self-harm, to her detri...

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“I honestly felt like I was invincible.”

 “It’s OK not to be OK.”

When Peter was in middle school, he struggled with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and ADHD. He became a target for bullies and spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. In high school, he embraced alcohol and drugs to ease his social anxiety. By the time he was in college, his substance use had gotten the best of him. He failed his classes and ended up in treatment prog...

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"We move like a river. And we have rocks in our path. What does water do? It moves, it flows through.”

“I love who I’m becoming.”

The end of a long relationship left Damon feeling lost and suicidal, but a call from a friend came at just the right moment. Since then, Damon has been on a journey of personal growth and self-acceptance, spending time in nature, starting a fashion company, and working with autistic kids. 

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“I can only describe it as like a weird sense of dread.” 

“It’s just really important for people to know they are not alone.” 

When Emily was in high school, she found herself as the de facto caretaker for her mom, who was mentally and physically ill. Emily struggled with severe anxiety, made even more difficult because of stigma surrounding mental health issues and challenges accessing therapy services.  Emily is now pursuing a de...

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“It’s okay to cry. Crying is an emotional breakthrough.” 

“I wake up every morning, and I am beautiful.” 

After an unresolved childhood trauma, Whitney suffered from acute anxiety attacks and nightmares. With the help of a therapist and a regular practice of journaling, she’s learned to cope with her past and deal with its emotional repercussions.

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“I’ve gotten better at asking for help.” 

“You aren’t a burden for existing.” 

Some people don’t like labels, but August finds them comforting and affirming. Queer. Nonbinary. Autistic. August embraces these labels as they navigate through a daily experience of feeling different and not fitting in. 

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“The world doesn’t feel real to you.” 

“It’s just a very self-destructive roller coaster ride.” 

“Mental illness is indiscriminate.” 

Jordan starting hearing voices in his head but did his best to ignore them. When he went to college, he spiraled into a pattern of depression, mania, and substance abuse that culminated in a seizure. After an inpatient hospitalization, Jordan was diagnosed with bipolar 1 with psychosis. A suicide att...

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“It’s not an easy conversation, but I think it’s one that should be had.” 

“I had the mindset that I wouldn’t live to be seventeen.” 

“I just hated myself for the longest time.” 

Myles witnessed gun violence at a young age, and it took a toll on his emotional health. He became anxious, depressed, and fatalistic. He had a less-than-ideal first encounter with a therapist, but he ultimately learned how to cope with his own self-hatred...

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“Is this my new reality?” 

“I was able to use my pain as power.” 

“Emotions are our teachers.” 

During the pandemic, isolation took its toll on Allison. On top of her depression, she contracted Covid, and the mental fog lingered. After reaching out a therapist, Rachel confronted her own emotions, started meditating, and processed her pain through a photo series called, Rotten

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“I didn’t fully grasp what was happening to me.” 

“My intuition was, ‘This is not right.’” 

“I’m still here to tell the story.” 

For Zach, an SSRI prescription had an unexpected outcome: He stopped sleeping and careened into manic bouts. After a psychotic episode that resulted in an inpatient hospitalization, Zach was given a diagnosis of bipolar. Today, he adheres to a careful regimen of medications that keep him focused and stabl...

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”I heard silence for the first time. And that was a beautiful thing.” 

“You are not broken.” 

Rachel has struggled with eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. Along the way, she’s self-medicated and connected with her spirituality. After being institutionalized, Rachel was diagnosed with bipolar 1.  

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“It’s like chipping away at a boulder.” 

“I’ve been through so much. Something good is bound to happen, eventually.” 

When he was 7 years old, Clark was sexually assaulted. He spent the next two years suffering in silence before he told his parents about the trauma. Since then, Cark has been on a journey to cope with an event that continues to have emotional repercussions. Clark says, “No matter how much power that has, my psyche i...

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