Though we have made noteworthy strides in our understanding and treatment of mental health disorders, a persistent stigma has made it more challenging for many people who need help to receive it. For example, you may hesitate to pursue a diagnosis because you fear it will limit opportunities or harm your relationships. You might even judge yourself or believe you are “less than” because you do not experience the world the same way as others. This Mental Health Month, how can you do your part to end the stigma around mental illnesses?
Harmful Effects of Stigma
Discrimination may be direct, such as someone making a disparaging remark about you within your earshot. It could also be subtle, like if a colleague avoids you because they assume you are unstable or unreliable.
Additional adverse effects of stigma can include:
- Reluctance to seek counseling
- Lack of compassion from friends and loved ones
- Inequitable work, educational, social or housing opportunities
- Loneliness and shame
- Bullying or harassment
- A lack of adequate health insurance coverage for your condition
- The belief that you don’t deserve the same level of success and happiness as other people
How to Cope With the Stigma of Mental Illness
Prejudice results from a lack of understanding of the fundamental facts surrounding a marginalized or minority group. Seeking support for your mental health challenges and helping educate others can make a world of difference.
Here are some productive ways you can confront the stigma of mental illness head-on.
Don’t let the fear of receiving a diagnosis prevent you from asking for help. A mental health professional can equip you with healthy coping skills to manage your disorder and prevent it from interfering with your daily life.
Mental illness can be extremely isolating. You could be reluctant to open up to others about your experiences because you fear their reaction. Ending the stigma of mental illness involves realizing that your condition is a genuine health concern – not a weakness or moral failing. Connecting with others who have faced similar challenges can boost your self-esteem and overcome destructive behaviors. Look for local, national or online support groups where you might find a good fit.
Use Person-First Language
You are not your diagnosis. Instead of saying “I’m schizophrenic,” say “I have schizophrenia.” Or, rather than saying “I am a drug addict/alcoholic,” you could say “I am living with a substance use disorder.” Person-first language can help minimize harmful stereotypes, while giving you more ownership and accountability over your circumstances.
If you feel comfortable doing so, become a mental and behavioral health advocate. You could start a blog, establish a social media presence or offer to be a guest speaker at events. Reading or hearing about your experiences can instill courage in others and inspire them to find a therapist or psychiatrist.
Promote Your Mental Health Needs
The stigma surrounding mental illness is a barrier to chip away at one step at a time. You can do your part by following the tips in this article and being an activist for wellness. And, when you are ready to take the next step and seek attention for an untreated mental health and substance use disorder, look for a program that puts your needs first.
At Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat, we offer a full continuum of care under one roof. You can get hospital-based treatment in our highly accredited facility, where you will receive attention from our addiction medicine specialists, daily visits from a licensed MD and access to counseling for at least 16 hours per day. To learn more about receiving your fully customized recovery plan, connect with us today.