Get Support to Overcome the Stigma of Mental Illness
It's hard to overcome stigma and judgement but you can overcome the stigma of mental illness with peer and family support. Just about everyone who suffers from a mental illness has experienced some form of mental health stigma. Stigma can take many forms, but for the sake of this blog post, I want to focus on the type of stigma that causes others to judge people with a mental illness and lower the status of mentally ill people in social situations.
When others judge you, it affects whether they will choose to befriend you, whether they will give you the respect you are due as a human being, and it affects many different social advantages that people without mental illnesses take for granted. But you can overcome the stigma of judgement of mental illness with support.
Outsiders Judge and Stigmatize Mental Illness More Than Your Supporters
The people who are more likely to judge you are those who fear people with mental illnesses for the wrong reasons or those who have never interacted with people who suffer from a mental illness. Basically, the seed of stigma and judgement is ignorance.
The way I have found to overcome the ignorance of the few people who judge me and my mental illness is by keeping rooted in groups of people that do understand. I have friends who suffer from similar mental illnesses from whom there is little-to-no stigma. I have other friends who are supportive of my problems, plus I attend classes and peer support groups to break the stigma of mental illness when I can.
In these groups, I can connect with more people who go through what I have experienced, and it makes it easier to deal with those who don't offer support. I even have a volunteer job where I give back by going to classrooms and different groups and teaching public groups that people with mental illnesses are people first, they are not simply an illness. By fighting stigma in this way, I have gained the respect of many people in my community.
I Overcome Mental Illness Stigma and Judgement with My Most Supportive Peers: My Family
The last and perhaps most important part of how I was able to overcome stigma and judgement in social situations was by spending a lot of time with my family and investing in my relationships with my brother, sister, dad, and cousins. Not only do family members know me and care about me, some of my family members also suffer and we have a lot to share with each other. The wonderful times we have together helps to forget the few people who still aren't able to understand my disability.
I also remind myself and others that I am lucky that I have a disability that can be treated and that has been proven to be possible to overcome with support, caring and proper treatment. My supports help me to overcome the mental illness stigma and judgement I sometimes feel.
Honesty and Overcoming Stigma In Social and Employment Situations
In the video, I share more of my thoughts on whether or not to tell your employer or fellow employees about your mental illness and whether to be honest about your mental health condition in social situations. I hope you'll share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below.
Gregersen, L. (2016, July 31). Get Support to Overcome the Stigma of Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2016/07/overcoming-stigma-with-group-and-family-support
Author: Leif Gregersen
But here is why I don't. My son is still in elementary school. First mom I started a friendly relationship with, ditched me when she found out I had bipolar disorder. Like literally unfriended me on FB and will not allow her son to play with mine. OK, if you are so ignorant that you have issues with me and my MH. fine. But she also made my son suffer. And kind of comically, my son is adopted, so we share no genes. They act like it's catching, like even being around it is a risk. It's so frustrating.
So that is why I remain silent. a) the rejection is painful, and b) I don't want my son to suffer from my MH issues. Unfortunately, because of that experience, I built very high walls of mistrust. I'm agoraphobic too, so I have rarely been in my son's school. I don't even try making friends anymore because of the fear of stigma affecting my son and my fear of being rejected AGAIN. I'm the ghost mom who most people never see.
It's a lonely place.