Mental illness stigma, some ways to cope

Today we are going to discuss some steps you can take to cope with the stigmas surrounding mental illness. 

The definition of stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. The lives of people with mental health problems can be affected by stigma in many different ways. There are social stigmas, characterized by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviour directed towards individuals with mental health problems that come from society, from our friends and family. There is also self stigma, this is when the person has internalized the negative perceptions of their illness. Stigma can significantly affect feelings of shame and lead to poorer treatment outcomes. 

Negative beliefs toward people who have a mental health conditions are common. These stigmas can lead to discrimination. This discrimination can be conspicuous, like being denied an opportunity based on one's mental health condition, or it can be inadvertent, like feeling wary around someone with a disorder because they think they may be unstable or even violent.

We can even stigmatize ourselves because we have internalized the way mental illness is portrayed in our culture. That is why we are going to share some ways you can cope with stigma. 

  • Get treatment. First and foremost if you are suffering, if you have signs and symptoms or if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, the number one thing you can do for yourself is get treatment. Some do not want to admit they need treatment. Don't let the fear of being labeled prevent you from seeking help.
  • Don't let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Like we discussed above stigma doesn't only come from others. We can internalize stigma and then torture ourselves with it. It can help to talk to others who have similar issues and also to talk to a therapist about your internal feelings about your illness.
  • Don't isolate yourself. Sometimes we don't want to share that we are struggling. In this day and age, where there is extra pressure to appear perfect in the online/social media world, it can be scary to admit something is wrong. Sharing your story can be a healing experience. Find someone in your life whom you trust and open up to them.
  • Don't equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. So say "I have bipolar disorder." instead of "I'm bipolar."
  • Join a support group. Ask your treatment provider or do a google search and find a local support group. NAMI Support Group Search CLICK HERE Support Groups in Clark County List CLICK HERE
  • Get help at school. There are counselors in nearly all schools/school districts, if your child is struggling check with your school district or school to see what is available. Most colleges also have various types of support groups and counseling available on campus or can point you in the right direction for help if you need it.
  • Do your mental health care thing. Have a bad experience with stigma? It can help relieve stress to have a default "mental health care" activity you can fall back on when feeling poorly. Getting outdoors, hanging out with friends, listening to music, exercising, reading a book- figure out what helps your mental health state and when you are having a rough day go do your thing!
  • Speak out against stigma. Consider sharing your story and educating people who may be unintentionally spreading mental health stigmas. Sharing your story can encourage others who may be suffering.