Mental Health Stigma Affects Your Loved Ones by Association
Mental health stigma affects the loved ones of a person with mental illness, not only the person with the mental illness. I don’t mean in the situations where the loved one openly or inadvertently stigmatizes, but rather the stigma falls onto them to by association. I know it’s sometimes just a worry that we as people with mental illness have, and typically we look at it in the form of thinking we’re embarrassments rather than the targets of stigma, but loved ones face mental health stigma, too.
Ways Mental Health Stigma Is Passed on to a Loved One
I’ve both seen this in comments and in person. Just the other night I saw in one of the support groups I’m a part of on Facebook, someone was sharing about how her husband was told that he shouldn’t let her outside because of her disorder, which, in this case, happens to be excoriation (skin-picking) disorder. The skin picking leaves wounds and scars on the skin, so often it draws stares or rude comments and many skin-pickers worry about those comments spilling over onto family members, friends, or significant others, as was the case here.
It was somewhat the case with myself as well. It wasn’t the same level of rudeness, but I know my boyfriend has been asked what’s wrong with my skin. And maybe there is worse that he’s heard that I don’t even know about, which is hard to think about. Even though I’m comfortable in my own skin and he’s never said anything negative about it, I don’t want him to have to deal with the negative repercussions of my mental illness (Mental Illness and Responding to Negative Feedback).
While something like a skin-picking disorder is pretty obvious, I have a feeling that it spans across most, if not all, mental illnesses.
Can I Guard a Loved One from Mental Health Stigma?
As I eluded to above, my boyfriend has never said anything about being bothered by any comments he might get, and I typically see that across the board with those of us who have supportive significant others, families, and friends. Despite that, I’m also very aware that I make a conscious effort, sometimes, to avoid any potential for the mental health stigma that can affect loved ones; I’ll wear clothing that covers my scars, for instance. Knowing how awful stigma can feel makes me protective of those around me, especially those most important to me. The tricky part is balancing it so that I don’t do it and let it become a detriment to myself. This takes time to work out, and is something that I’m still navigating, but it is possible.
Author: Laura Barton
Thank you for addressing this!