About Laura Barton, Author of 'Surviving Mental Health Stigma Blog'
My name is Laura Barton and I am the new author of Surviving Mental Health Stigma Blog. I am a Canadian, writer of all sorts, lover of dystopian fiction, volunteer with the Canadian Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior Support Network, and a fan of tattoos, wolves and 1966 Batman.
I also live with mental health issues, some of which you’ve probably heard of and one that you might not have. Depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation have been a part of my life to different degrees, as has a disorder called excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, which I’m more likely to call dermatillomania. Living my way through these disorders and whatever hold they’ve tried to have on me, has shaped who I am today.
Laura Barton and Mental Illness
Dermatillomania and anxiety are the two disorders that have been with me the longest. They both entered into my life when I was still a young child—dermatillomania started for me when I was about 5 years old and anxiety has been with me for as long as I can remember, even though it often got passed off as shyness. My depression and suicidal ideation came a little later, during my preteen and early teenage years.
Stigma and Mental Illness
Each of these has had their share of negativity and positivity in my life, with most of the positive coming to me in the past several years as I’ve worked to understand my disorders and also to spread as much awareness about them as I can. I blog and write about my disorders, including self-publishing a book titled Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars, and do what I can to get information out to others. I do this because when I was younger there was no one there to tell me my world wasn’t ending, so now I want to be that person for someone else.
I believe the best way to fight the stigma that we face is to have honest conversations about mental health. As a writer, the power of words is not something I take lightly because using them to spread awareness or even to let someone else know they are not alone is an excellent step towards breaking the stigma and the effects it has on everyone, even ourselves.
More on Laura Barton and Mental Illness
Barton, L. (2015, September 17). About Laura Barton, Author of 'Surviving Mental Health Stigma Blog', HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2015/09/about-laura-barton
Author: Laura Barton
hi I was just wondering whether you could explain more about how the romanticization of mental illnesss is creating a stigma. isn't it the oppisiste? stigma is something that is hush hush that people refuse to talk about isn't romanticising it making people talk about it more just in the wrong way?
Hi Connie. That's a great question. You're absolutely right, one of the ways stigma works is by silencing discussion of mental illness by presenting it in such a negative light that people are afraid to open up. While romanticizing mental illness does facilitate the conversation, it paints an unrealistic image of what mental illness is. When romanticized, it's typically shown as this idealistic form of the illness that's neat and easier to understand and manage, but mental illness is messy. It's not always going to look like tears streaming down cheeks or a romantic hero struggling with what's going on in his or her mind. Such a narrow view of mental illness can contribute to stigma and silence people because they feel like they don't fit in that box. In addition, others can feel like the person with mental illness should fit in that box, and when they don't, they're accused of faking or embellishing their illness. I hope that helps clear up my views on this a bit more.
In case you haven't come across them, here are a couple of blogs I've written on this topic:
I happy to chat about this more if you have other questions. :)
Tips for Coping with Mental Illness Stigma at School
No one ought suggest "coping" with it. It is bullying. One does not cooperate with bullying.
Hi Harold, I feel like you may be misunderstanding what I'm saying. Coping with something and cooperating with it are two entirely different things, and I would never suggest cooperating with stigma or bullying (which I also see as two different things). My tips are to help people who might be dealing with stigma and how to get through that tough situation emotionally and in terms of dealing with the people doing the stigmatizing. I hope that helps you see what I'm saying better, but definitely feel free to ask more questions! Thanks for your input.
Since this somehow ended up on my profile blog instead of the blog in question, here is a link: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2017/08/tips-for-coping-wi…
One educates people who stigmatize, one does not offer them credence. It is bullying, one does not accommodate bullies.
Yes, accommodating that prejudice has become habit. It is a bad habit.
Hi again, Harold. You're right, we should educate those who stigmatize, which myself and the writers on HealthyPlace do. No one here is saying people who spread stigma about mental health and mental illness, or about anything, are in the right; we are definitely not accommodating them.
I'm not sure if you're saying these things generally this time around or if it is linked to your original comment, but I will offer this clarification. Many of the blogs I write for HealthyPlace's Surviving Mental Health Stigma Blog are for those who feel the stigma, and how they can cope and deal with it while it exists. Many times my tips include educating others about the realities of mental illness, but, in general, my goal is to help those who end up feeling bad because someone stigmatized them, especially before it becomes internalized self-stigma.
We can try to educate people who perpetuate stigma until we're blue in the face; ultimately, the only people we can affect and change are ourselves and by doing so we can take away stigma's power over us. That doesn't mean stigma is right or that the people who believe stigma shouldn't be educated, otherwise, but helping ourselves is a great first step in healing.
Mental health stigma remains alive and well. Is it logical to stigmatize someone with diabetes? Does it help to label a patient with cancer? Does it work to demonize someone with heart disease. The answer is no, no, no. Why do many stigmatize those with mental illnesses? We have to pay our bills, live our lives, and work to succeed just like anyone else. The answer is to educate the public about mental illness and bring knowledge about our strengths to the forefront of consciousness.