Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness
What is stigma?
Simply put, a stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing trait that’s thought to be (or actually is) a disadvantage.
One of the harmful effects of stigma is that it can lead to discrimination. It could be as obvious as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or as subtle as someone avoiding you because they think you could be unstable, violent or dangerous.
The harmful effects of stigma
Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health condition are common and widespread.
The effects can be damaging and even dangerous:
Reluctance to seek help or treatment due to the labeling
Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others you know
Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
Bullying, physical violence or harassment
Health insurance that doesn't adequately cover your mental illness treatment
The belief that you'll never be able to succeed at certain challenges or that you can't improve your situation
Ways to cope with stigma?
Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying the issues and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
Resist urges for self-doubt and shame
Stigma doesn’t just come from others. Seek 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
Tell someone. Your family, friends, clergy or members of your community can offer you compassion, support and understanding if they know about your mental illness.
Join a support group
Local and national groups (e.g. National Alliance on Mental Illness) offer programs and Internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people with mental illness, their families and the general public. Some state and federal agencies and programs, such as those that focus on vocational rehabilitation or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offer support for people with mental health conditions.
Ask your community for help
Talk to teachers/professors, your supervisor or office administrators about the best approach and resources. Discrimination against someone because of a mental health condition is against the law, those at your school or office are required to accommodate you as best they can.
Speak out against stigma
Consider expressing 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.
How One Mind is combatting stigma
With pioneering online patient community builder PatientsLikeMe, One Mind is building online communities to help those affected by PTS and TBI to connect, learn, share with others, track their progress, become better informed and advocate more effectively for their own health and the health of those they love.
Learn more about our programs and solutions to help erase the mental illness stigma.