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Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness

Posted by on Dec. 7, 2012 at 8:55 AM
rho
  • 10 Replies

Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness

False beliefs about mental illness can cause significant problems. Learn what you can do about stigma.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Stigma is when someone judges you based on a personal trait. Unfortunately, this is a common experience for people who have a mental health condition. Stigma may be obvious and direct, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or your treatment. Or it may be subtle, such as someone assuming you could be unstable, violent or dangerous because you have a mental health condition. You may even judge yourself. Some of the harmful effects of stigma can include:

  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, colleagues or others you know
  • Discrimination at work or school
  • Difficulty finding housing
  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment
  • Health insurance that doesn't adequately cover your mental illness
  • The belief that you will never be able to succeed at certain challenges or that you can't improve your situation
  • teps to cope with stigma

    Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:

    • Get treatment. You may be reluctant to admit you have a condition that needs treatment. Don't let the fear of being "labeled" with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what's wrong in concrete terms and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
    • Don't let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn't just come from others. You may have the mistaken belief that your condition is a sign of personal weakness, or that you should be able to control it without help. Seeking psychological counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others with mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.
    • Don't isolate yourself. If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Have the courage to confide in your spouse, family members, friends, clergy or other members of your community. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support and understanding you need.
    • Don't equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. So instead of saying "I'm bipolar," say "I have bipolar disorder." Instead of calling yourself "a schizophrenic," call yourself "a person with schizophrenia." Don't say you "are depressed." Say you "haveclinical depression."
    • Join a support group. Some local and national groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer local programs and Internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people with mental illness, their family members and the general public. A number of state and federal agencies and programs also offer support for people who have mental health conditions. Examples include agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation and Veterans Affairs (VA).
    • Get help at school. If you or your child has a mental illness that affects learning, find out what plans and programs might help. Discrimination against students because of a mental health conditionis against the law, and educators at primary, secondary and college levels are required to accommodate students as best they can. Talk to teachers, professors or administrators about the best approach and available resources. If a teacher doesn't know about a student's disability, it can lead to discrimination, barriers to learning and poor grades.
    • Speak out against stigma. Express your opinions at events, in letters to the editor or on the Internet. It can help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.

    Others' judgments almost always stem from a lack of understanding rather than information based on the facts. Learning to accept your condition and recognize what you need to do to treat it, seeking support, and helping educate others can make a big difference

by on Dec. 7, 2012 at 8:55 AM
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Replies (1-10):
matreshka
by Ruby Member on Dec. 7, 2012 at 9:53 AM

I hope one day stigma will be gone.  My older son's father still calls me crazy and many of my old "friends" abandoned me once I started to be hospitalized.

Some people see me as just my illness while others, like DH feel I can just power through it and be fine, like I have a character defect instead of a chemical imbalance.

rhodaj
by rho on Dec. 7, 2012 at 11:08 AM

I know how you feel. I have been through this also. Isn't it funny how you find out who your true friends are when you have been dx with a mental illness. 

Quoting matreshka:

I hope one day stigma will be gone.  My older son's father still calls me crazy and many of my old "friends" abandoned me once I started to be hospitalized.

Some people see me as just my illness while others, like DH feel I can just power through it and be fine, like I have a character defect instead of a chemical imbalance.


matreshka
by Ruby Member on Dec. 7, 2012 at 11:10 AM

It sucks when people see us just as an illness and not all the other non illness things that make up our personality and who we are.

Quoting rhodaj:

I know how you feel. I have been through this also. Isn't it funny how you find out who your true friends are when you have been dx with a mental illness. 

Quoting matreshka:

I hope one day stigma will be gone.  My older son's father still calls me crazy and many of my old "friends" abandoned me once I started to be hospitalized.

Some people see me as just my illness while others, like DH feel I can just power through it and be fine, like I have a character defect instead of a chemical imbalance.



elwalters77
by Erica on Dec. 7, 2012 at 11:13 AM


Quoting matreshka:

I hope one day stigma will be gone.  My older son's father still calls me crazy and many of my old "friends" abandoned me once I started to be hospitalized.

Some people see me as just my illness while others, like DH feel I can just power through it and be fine, like I have a character defect instead of a chemical imbalance.

I know. I hate it too. People really don't understand.

gonecrazi
by Silver Member on Dec. 8, 2012 at 1:18 PM

 My family doesn't talk about it, these are my brothers and sisters, they act like it doesn't exsit. 

matreshka
by Ruby Member on Dec. 8, 2012 at 1:38 PM

My side of the family is the same way, especially my parents.  Funny thing is, my aunt and some cousins have bipolar dx's.  Its kinda hard to ignore.

Quoting gonecrazi:

 My family doesn't talk about it, these are my brothers and sisters, they act like it doesn't exsit. 


Tracys2
by on Dec. 8, 2012 at 1:49 PM

I learned my father was on wellbutrin one day when I was perusing his medical records. I have no idea how long he's been on it or what his diagnosis is.

Quoting matreshka:

My side of the family is the same way, especially my parents.  Funny thing is, my aunt and some cousins have bipolar dx's.  Its kinda hard to ignore.

Quoting gonecrazi:

 My family doesn't talk about it, these are my brothers and sisters, they act like it doesn't exsit. 



deltathree
by Gold Member on Dec. 8, 2012 at 7:04 PM

excellent post - thx!

matreshka
by Ruby Member on Dec. 8, 2012 at 7:24 PM

My dad has Alzheimer's he was sliding downhill fast and I went through his meds, he was also on wellbutrin, a med that made me ragey, and he was showing a lot of frustration and anger.  I talked to my mom and she brought him to a geriatric specialist who paired down his meds and got him off the wellbutrin.  he is doing better with his anger.

I once saw a bottle of ativan my mom was taking, they never discuss their meds, issues or anything with me.  I've been in the mental health system so long I feel like I could really help them if they just open up.

Quoting Tracys2:

I learned my father was on wellbutrin one day when I was perusing his medical records. I have no idea how long he's been on it or what his diagnosis is.

Quoting matreshka:

My side of the family is the same way, especially my parents.  Funny thing is, my aunt and some cousins have bipolar dx's.  Its kinda hard to ignore.

Quoting gonecrazi:

 My family doesn't talk about it, these are my brothers and sisters, they act like it doesn't exsit. 




lyrick24
by Ruby Member on Dec. 8, 2012 at 7:38 PM

 tfs!

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