Single stories are seen everywhere by everyone, even though you may not notice it. A single story, as described by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is “the overly simplistic and sometimes false perceptions we form about individuals, groups, or countries” (Facing History and Ourselves). A personal single story that I have experienced is the stigma associated with mental health. Many people think that people suffering with depression or anxiety, among other illnesses, are seen as “crazy” or “attention-seeking.” Stigmas are “when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage,” or a negative stereotype (Mayo Clinic). These stigmas can cause one’s feelings to worsen and they can become resistant when needing to receive treatment or therapy because of the way people perceive them (Department of Health & Human Services).
In my situation, I dealt with my anxiety by isolating myself from those there to help, as well as not talking through my emotions for a very long time out of fear of judgement. My friend showed me empathy during this time by talking to me about everything, as well as relating and giving me advice as to how to overcome my anxieties, which strengthened our relationship. I now have empathy for anyone with a mental health illness because I know how it feels to be in that destructive of a mindset and how hard it is to constantly battle with your own brain. Both my friends as well as myself helped to realize that I am not a part of the stigmas associated with depression and anxiety. Communicating with one another as a form of support is the key to maintaining empathy within relationships.
Department of Health & Human Services. “Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Illness.”
Better Health Channel, Department of Health & Human Services, 18 September 2015,
Facing History and Ourselves. “Stereotypes and ‘Single Stories.’” Facing History and Ourselves,
Mayo Clinic. “Mental Health: Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo
Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 May 2017,
Thank you so much for this post! I know how difficult it is to make your mental struggles public and open yourself up to criticism and the opinions of others. That being said, you mention the harmful “stigma” surrounding mental health and I believe that the best way to address this serious topic is through actions like yours, not treating real suffering as an illusion. I specifically like how you connect the harmful perceptions of mental illness to the impacts of single stories and not being open with yourself and others. Discussing topics like these with friends and approaching others’ hardships with an open mind is the first step to a more accepting and healthy environment. Again, I really enjoyed this piece and I’m excited to hear more from you!