Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness
Each year, 1 in 5 U.S. adults will experience some form of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, but almost half of them never get help. The lack of people seeking treatment has to do with the negative stigma attached to mental health conditions, which derives from stereotypes and lack of education.
However, the public perception of mental illness is finally starting to change. There is an increasing amount of people, including celebrities and influencers, openly speaking out about their personal experiences with mental health and raising social awareness on these issues. The Coronavirus pandemic also seems to be destigmatizing mental illnesses, as the crisis is causing a historic rise in mental health problems. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly half of Americans reported that the coronavirus pandemic is harming their mental health. This is why it’s important to know that if you feel scared, anxious, or depressed, you are not alone. Especially since, in our day and age, treatment for mental health conditions has come a long way.
In 2010, Astharte De Los Santos, was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 with psychotic features. At the time she was just 23, but she didn’t have just herself to think about, she also had a three-year-old daughter to take care of. With her only option at the time being help from the government, Astharte knew it was time to try.
At that moment she made a decision, to use all the strength she could find in her relationship with God and embrace her passion for writing.
Learning, Healing, and Inspiring…
Since receiving her diagnosis and finally understanding why her mind was in such a hectic state, Astharte has dedicated her time to writing on her WordPress blogs, as well as other online resources. She has been sharing with her readers her experience in coping with her mental illness and substance abuse, revealing the struggles she faced, how she overcame them and empowered her mind.
In April, Astharte released her book: Social Awareness: On Mental Health and Substance Abuse, who she dedicates to anyone with mental health struggles fighting every day to live right. In her book, she openly talks about her journey to mental well-being since her diagnosis, sharing a collection of personal experiences supplemented with scientific facts. The book includes topics such as social awareness, forgiveness, creativity, and tips on how to deal with mental disorders. She is aspires to help readers overcome their symptoms, their pain, the meds, and all the obstacles they face. And most importantly she wants people to know that “despite our current situation, we must believe we are entitled to what we dream and hope for.”
“Despite our current situation, we must believe we are entitled to what we dream and hope for.”
It doesn’t matter what age, sex, or income you have, everyone is at risk of developing some sort of mental health disorder. This is why it’s essential to increase social awareness on these issues and to always keep the focus on bettering your mental health. People like to know they are not alone, and sharing authentic stories of individuals coping with real situations can really help other people struggling with similar issues. I admire Asharte because it takes courage to share such an honest account of what she has been through, and through writing, she learns about herself, she heals and she inspires others. I had the pleasure to interview Astharte and find out about her journey, her work, and much more.
Fun fact: Astharte didn’t just publish her book on any random day, that date had a significant meaning.
“I am 33 now, and why is that special? Because I consider 33 the age Jesus died, the actual start of his ministry after he was successful in defeating death. I published my book right at 12 am, April 17, 2020, on my 33rd birthday.”- Astharte
“Mental wellness is self-acceptance, healing, and loving that is done through self-reflection. I always say introspection, through self-reflection that will lead in the right direction.” – Astharte
Tell me about your book Social Awareness: On Mental Health and Substance Abuse. What made you decide to write it?
I had a ton of writing on google docs and word docs and I decided to compile them with my articles that are posted on an extremely popular self-help website called SelfGrowth that were doing good numbers. The articles were written for Ocean Breeze Recovery a drug recovery center in Pompano Beach. There I was a content writer and used SEO on WordPress to compose articles that would trend. My article on Creativity and Addiction is number 4 for that search term.
Your book features a collection of articles based on personal experiences with mental health supported by the facts. What type of research/information did you need for this book?
I always use scientific facts and incorporate them with personal experience. I’m honored to write such an honest account of what I have been through. I appreciate all of my readers and would like to educate them on the dangers of drug abuse and how it sometimes tends to become a self-medicating mechanism people rely on.
Since you have been doing this for quite some time, do you have favorite websites where you like to get your information/facts? If yes, can you share one?
One of my favorite websites is ”Bipolar Burple” she is a great source of inspiration. I remember coming across her page at such a difficult time in my life when I felt alone in my mental illness. She wrote a post about struggling to shower. I resonated with that because my obsession is cleaning. It felt good to hear someone write so honestly that they also have things they need to resolve and feelings to address.
The websites I use to gather research are public government websites such as drugabuse.gov and samhsa.gov. They update facts and statistics to inform the public about substance abuse. They also include mental health. I also use NAMIMIAMI as a resource because I go to their website to educate myself on current breakthroughs in mental health.
A great book I read that helped a lot as well is titled “Touched with Fire” by Kay Redfield Jamison. She told so many stories of the challenges “Bipolar Creatives” face. From musicians to poets, to authors we all have that common trait the inclination to make my mental illness useful. She is a Doctor of Psychiatry who also struggles with Bipolar and is a great example of the success amidst the trials.
What does mental wellness mean to you?
Mental wellness is self-acceptance, healing, and loving that is done through self-reflection. I always say introspection, through self-reflection that will lead in the right direction. I have gone through periods in my life where my self-esteem dragged me into the deepness of the depression of my Bipolar. I have also self-medicated, but I have been working on becoming sober. Doing holistic things like enjoying a cup of water, or simply taking a walk and being one with nature.
How long did it take you to write your book?
It took me three months and I recently compiled/edited all my articles written in 2016 for Ocean Breeze Recovery in Pompano, Beach Florida.
What surprised you the most about the process of creating your book?
I have been obsessed with creating social awareness for a few years. It started when I decided to become a writer. When I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 I decided that it wasn’t going to define me. That it was not going to make something out of my story. The thoughts, delusions equaled fiction and my personal experience to educate readers better about addiction and mental health.
“When I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 I decided that it wasn’t going to define me.”
What were some of the challenges that arose in the process of publishing your book?
I would advise that those self-publishing through amazon to prepare themselves to not know anything about the formatting process. It was so challenging, but a good friend recommended Fiverr. I paid for expedited service and got a wonderful result. It was very affordable.
Why do you think it is so important to educate people on addiction and mental health? Why is it necessary to create social awareness on these issues?
Social awareness is honesty. It starts within yourself through self-reflection. I really believe in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and to get to where you want to be, he teaches that it can be done but through building step by step.
Who will the book appeal to? What age range would you recommend for it?
18 and up.
You have been writing online on WordPress for over 10 years, you have two personal blogs and write poetry and short stories. Tell me more about that. How did you get started?
I was fascinated with WordPress and really loved being able to post anything I wanted. There I have two blogs Withthestrokeofapen.wordpress.com and Opentalkwithgod.wordpress.com. On my first blog I post poetry that is quite inspirational and mostly Christian, love, and tasteful erotica. On my second I write about my open talk with God all day. The pains, the struggles, the lack of motivation.
As someone who writes poetry and short stories, have you ever considered writing a fiction book?
I am working on a book called Casual Encounters due soon on Amazon it will be my first Tasteful Erotica book. It will feature love stories, sex stories about sexy travel encounters and I even write about Christian Love.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
All the time. I do not push it. A story, an article, a book is birthed when ready.
What inspires you?
- My relationship with the Lord
- My mom and Dad
- And most importantly my daughter Corinthia Small
What is the toughest part of being an independent writer?
Financial instability that sometimes demotivates you from pursuing an actual sustainable living from writing. It is a progressive, lengthy work that requires a lot of dedication. Even if life gets in the way.
Describe your creative process. Do you have a writing routine? What is your workspace like?
I really think that visualizing and creating an outline is important for writing. I most importantly have a routine where I bow down and worship to the Lord, pray, read the word of God and allow him to use me effectively. It takes courage to tell any story, a story, my story, your story.
Your book focuses on breaking the stigma of mental health. When you received your diagnosis for Bipolar Disorder 2, did you have to overcome any self-perceived stigmas? If yes, which ones?
I became isolated and when others know the situation, they become guarded because they want to protect themselves from any danger. That humbled me so it made me a recluse. Love your mentally ill friend, encourage them, call them, they too are entitled to be loved and respected.
How has writing helped you throughout your journey of mental health?
It has given me a purpose to forgive myself for the shame and guilt of things I do when I am not well. It is given me a voice to advocate for those who cannot advocate for mental health. Those in the hospital, completely self-contained by their thoughts and dreams, delusions, and fears. That way they experience the power of love.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I am reading Paulo Cohelo 11 minutes, Touched by Fire by my favorite advocate Kay Redfield Jamison PHD. She is so inspiring she makes me feel that I can do it even if there’s future hospitalizations, future breakdowns, and heartache. She is a hero to the Mental Health Community and quite an inspiration.
How has creativity helped you with your mental health? How would you describe the link between mental health and creativity?
I do this technique quite hard which is to “refrain from your impulses to develop an intellect” where I try to practice self-control in areas of my life that I am lacking in. I push myself in many ways I struggle to develop the creative touch of Bipolar 2. It is possible I put it into fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction articles.
What advice do you have for people struggling with mental health?
Guys be kind to yourself, be a source of support. Believe in medication management, believe in your Doctor, and allow the holy spirit to guide you through your days. I understand that it is hard, but you can find support online, in person, Christian therapy whatever your thing is, rely on spirituality and mindfulness to take you through your journey.
What is the best part of being a writer?
The best part of being a writer is sitting and yes doing nothing but impacting the world just by a click of a keyboard.
What is next for you?
I have decided writing is all I got, and I am going to pursue it wholeheartedly. My plans are to write books, complete my master’s degree and start my own radio show titled “Let’s Have a Conversation About Mental Health and Substance Abuse. I also plan to begin a NON-Profit organization next year called “The Sisterhood”.