How a Mental Health Community Reduces Stigma's Impact
Many xon't know this, but a mental health community can reduce the impact of stigma. One thing that mental illness is really good at is making a person feel isolated and alone, which is a perfect way for stigma and self-stigma to thrive. There are a number of ways to combat that, such as reading more about the illness to learn the facts versus the fiction. But another way to effectively combat whatever sort of stigma comes along is to immerse oneself in a mental health community to reduce the impact of stigma and connect with others who have similar experiences.
Identifying with the Mental Health Community Reduces Stigma
As I write this blog, I’m sitting in the St. Louis Lambert International Airport, waiting for a plane to take me back to Canada after the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours’ (TLC) Annual Conference. Each year at a different location in the United States, the TLC gathers together professionals who treat or are interested in learning about body-focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs) and people with BFRBs alike to share information about this group of disorders and also to provide a safe space and gathering for everyone who might not be ready to come out.
This is my second time attending one of TLC’s conferences, and this year somewhere around 450 people from across the globe with trichotillomania, excoriation (skin-picking) disorder and other disorders like these came to learn and socialize.
I went to the conference this year for three reasons—to learn more about my skin picking, to spend time with friends (some of whom I was meeting in person for the first time), and to co-host a workshop.
These might all seem like really simple things, but when it comes to disorders that otherwise have the potential to be so isolating, this kind of thing is huge. It’s three days to take the opportunity to be true to yourself and stop hiding, it’s three days to learn about what you’re going through and meet others who can understand, and it’s three days to chip away at the stigma and self-stigma that may plague you.
Just being surrounded by hundreds of others who won’t think twice about what you’re going through because they’re either going through it themselves or are professionals in the field is a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. I’ve seen people go to that conference and feel comfortable baring their scarred skin or their patchy hair for the first time ever.
Even though it’s in a hotel with members of the public milling around too, having that large and present support system makes a world of difference (Connecting with Others, Friendship Enhance Mental Health). I think it’s safe to say that if someone felt stigmatized while there, they could approach anyone else at the conference and find a soft place to land. There’s also a world of people there that can help you realize all the self-stigma you’re feeling is not only natural but reversible.
How to Become a Part of the Mental Health Community to Combat Stigma
In today’s day and age of the Internet, finding support groups, blogs, or otherwise that are about or correlate with your mental illness is, I would say, easy. Growing up in the 1990s, I didn’t have the Internet, and even when we did eventually connect to the world wide web, it wasn’t as saturated in everyday life as it is now.
Searching the Internet to find that community of people who can understand and identify with what you’re going through is a great place to start. Finding out how to become a part of it in the non-Internet world is a little more difficult, but possible, and ultimately, totally worth it (I Need Mental Help: Where to Find Mental Health Help).
Barton, L. (2017, April 30). How a Mental Health Community Reduces Stigma's Impact, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2017/04/reducing-stimas-impact-with-the-mental-health-community