I’m gonna begin this post with some stats. Because who doesn’t love some stats?
- 57% of all adults believe that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness.
- Only 25% of adults with mental health symptoms believe that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness.
(Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveyed adults in 37 states and territories about their attitudes toward mental illness)
Although I have been directly affected by it, and it kinda drives me crazy(er), I actually understand why there is such a stigma regarding mental illness in our society. Unless I have a face and name to put to a particular issue, it is hard for me to comprehend it. I think it’s the same with mental illness. If you intimately know someone that is struggling with a mental disorder, your heart is probably more open to researching their condition and attempting to understand them. (God bless my inner circle. They try SO hard. hahaha)
Unfortunately, the stigma of mental illness creates shame in those suffering from it, which, in turn, creates silence, which perpetuates stigma because people are afraid to even talk about it (as I was, before hitting the “share” button on my first blog post.) As I have seen, with the overwhelmingly positive response to my own blog, as more and more people come forward and tell their stories about their struggles with mental illness, I do believe the stigma can and will (slowly) fade away.
The conversation needs to be ongoing. The silence needs to be continually broken.
So can we just converse about Disney’s latest film, “Frozen,” for a second?
I know it may be a long shot, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this:
What do you think about “Frozen” being an allegory for mental illness?
Could it be that Disney is subtly speaking out about the dangers of stigmatizing mental illness and the power that love and acceptance has in the lives of those affected?
Yes, I understand that it is the nature of literature and film that we see ourselves in the protagonists and antagonists of the art we consume. Sometimes it seems like every movie or book I read is “completely about my life.” I could be completely wrong. (I tried calling Disney, but Ariel said Mickey and Minnie were not available for comment. 🙂 ) But that’s not the point, really. The conversation is the point.
I repeat: I could be wrong. But…I could be right. 🙂
Here are 8 reasons why I think Elsa’s character and her “powers” could be interpreted as one suffering from mental illness:
1. Elsa, one of the two main characters in the film, has a “condition” that is strongly linked to her emotions. She has a Spiderman-ish expulsion of ice from her hands that she cannot control. (This can be compared to mental illnesses that are linked directly with brain chemistry, causing emotions and outburts that are uncontrollable. I constantly whispered to myself throughout the film, “omg I am Elsa.” )
2. When she is little, Elsa accidentally hurts her sister, Anna, with her powers. (I remember completely scaring the shit out of my siblings with outburts I could not control.)
3. Her parents become afraid that Elsa will grow to be completely uncontrollable.They choose to shield Anna and everyone else from Elsa’s powers by keeping them a secret. They give her gloves to help control her ice powers. (Although my parents are champions in my corner now, they have admitted to, at one time, allowing stigma to seep into their minds about me. They never asked me to keep it a secret, though, and support this blog a thousand percent, which I love. Unfortunately, other parents are not so supportive, and many children and teens go undiagnosed because their parents are too afraid to have a son or daughter with something “wrong” with them, or, if they are diagnosed, it is kept completely on the low.)
4. ”Conceal. Don’t Feel” turns out to be Elsa’s mantra. (Um…yes. I could write a blog entirely on the subject of trying to “control” one’s condition in a society that doesn’t understand it. Actually I think that will be my next post.)
5. Elsa learns to shut everybody out of her life, even those who desperately want to connect with her. (That song “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” slays my soul!!! I can’t tell you how many times I have felt unlovable and incomprehensible so much so that I’ve locked myself away from the people that care about me. I honestly still do this. Everyone trying to love me deserves a trophy and a spa day.)
6. Elsa has a public, embarrassing outburst, which causes much confusion and even some harsh criticism. One man repeatedly calls her a “monster” and tries to convince everyone she is unfit to rule her kingdom. ( Sadly, I know the pain and the backlash of a very public manic episode. I’ve never been called a “monster” to my face, but someone in my life once told me I may turn out to be an unfit mother. We’re no longer friends.)
7. The public outburst causes Elsa to run away to the mountains by herself, where she slowly learns to accept, and even find beauty in her “condition.” (The lyrics of “Let It Go” turn me into a blubbering idiot. My experience with bipolar disorder has caused much self-hatred and shame, but ultimately it is teaching me to accept every part of who I am as unique and beautiful…even the parts that scare people away.)
8. Ultimately, Love is what restores Elsa, Anna, and their kingdom back to peace and order. It is that love that inspires the entire kingdom to accept and ultimately embrace Elsa’s condition. (I know for a fact that I would not be alive right now if it weren’t for the fierce love that I receive from my family and friends. I believe that Love, as opposed to stigma and the self-hatred it inflicts upon millions of people, is ultimately the best medicine for mental illness.
Disclaimer for the mentally ill: THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU SHOULDN’T TAKE MEDICINE. GO TAKE YOUR MEDS. RIGHT NOW.)
There’s so much more that I’ve been thinking about, but those are just the main points.
Even if they weren’t trying to, Disney has started a conversation.
Stigma keeps us silent.
Stigma keeps us locked away from others.
Stigma banishes us to the outskirts of society.
But love and acceptance can heal.
In order to teach the mentally ill how to love themselves, we must first learn how to love them.
It starts with the conversation. Let’s talk!
(That is, if you can get “Let It Go” out of your heads for a minute.)
HAVE A GREAT DAYYYYYY