Do not mistake support with Attention seeking
I'll give a personal example. As the clock ticked closer to panel time, I started to question if I had the right to be a speaker. Ironic, really, but not surprising, though I had hoped I would be able to at least keep from being paralyzed. Nope. Sometimes I can pull myself out of these moments, sometimes I can't. That afternoon was a huge "can't," so I turned to my support: the hub.
The hub could have easily told me I was overreacting (because I started to cry) and that everything would be fine and to just get over it, but he didn't. He chose to be that support, to be empathetic, and that empathy is what kept me from caving in.
Do Not generalize mental health with jerks
The heart of the issue that came up during the panel was the question of when does support become extortion. It's a very valid question, but not one that should be answered with the broad generalization that anyone not seeking professional help is just an attention seeker. That type of response is not helpful and can feed the negative stigma associated with mental health.
My response: Do not confuse toxic friendships and relationships with someone suffering from mental illness. I know this is easier said than done, but I really feel like this piece by Miss Misery breaks down the difference between someone just needing extra support and jerks:
The dilemma, in my mind, boils down to this: when you’re ill, the minimum amount of help you need may be more than the maximum amount your loved ones can give. Are you a jerk for asking for that help?
I think the answer to these questions is definitely no, it doesn’t make you a jerk just to ask for extra sympathy and attention where your mental illness is concerned. However, to avoid being inconsiderate or thoughtless, one key condition must be met: you must make an honest and genuine effort to minimize how much you take from your caregivers. A sick person demands patience; a sick person who’s also a jerk demands unnecessary patience. For example, someone who has been conditioned that their caregivers will get them anything they want and abuses that privilege is probably behaving like a jerk.
The key concept that separates jerks from the truly needy, then, is lack of consideration for the person in the support role. For example, when a mentally unsteady person frequently needs to talk to a family member about their problems, they’re just doing what they have to in order to survive. That doesn’t make them a jerk; it’s just an unfortunate circumstance wherein someone has to suffer.
Being someone's support, or caregiver, is not a glamorous job. There's a reason I have thanked my hub in my books as the person who "spends time with me in the abyss." If you struggle with understanding the difference between actual jerks and someone just needing extra support in order to survive, then please go read Miss Misery's post: "People With Mental Illness Are Jerks."
Do not contribute to the negative stigma of mental health
A public platform, like a panel at a convention, is a powerful tool to help bring awareness and is not the place to be dismissive or make broad generalizations about mental health. Panelists should not be judgmental and should instead demonstrate understanding and awareness of people's suffering.