We can be broken down by mental health stigma. Mental health stigma surrounds us everywhere, whether we’re aware of it or not — in movies, television shows, news, literature, and the list goes on. Despite each source generally rehashing the same stigma-fuelled notions and images (or perhaps because of it), the fact that there’s so much stigma can be really draining and we ought to take a moment to practice self-care before mental health stigma breaks us down.
Why Mental Health Stigma Breaks You Down
Stigma Is Pervasive
Fighting mental health stigma can get to be exhausting because of how pervasive it still is. For every one person who listens to or is willing to have a civil conversation with you about mental illness and the stigma surrounding it, there are at least 10 more people lined up waiting to tell you why you are wrong. The constant repetition of the same facts and arguments can break down your will to engage in them.
Self-Stigma Exists, Too
And these conversations happen with people both within and without the mental health community. Some people within the community are inundated with mental health stigma to the point that they believe it, have internalized it, and developed self-stigma because of it.
People Don’t Like to Have Their Beliefs Challenged
In many cases, people are averse to another reality and become abrasive when you challenge their beliefs, even if you present scientific studies and facts. Sometimes even when they ask for them. I’ve had someone block me on social media after I sent her studies that she asked for because she disagreed with my point. This type of stigma can break you down.
Being constantly up against this kind of stress can make you feel like you’re talking to a wall. But it’s something that many of us continue to do because we know that even helping one person understand his perceptions are actually harmful stigma can have a hugely positive ripple effect. We do it because we want to encourage accurate discussion about mental illness and better the lives of the people who have mental illnesses by lessening the hurt (Stand Up For Mental Health Campaign).
3 Ways to Use Self-Care If Mental Health Stigma Threatens to Break You Down
- Take a step back. Know when you need to stop for a bit and recharge, and then do it. That could mean disengaging from the Internet as a whole or simply sticking to more fluffy uses of social media, such as sharing pictures of cute animals or liking your friends’ vacation pictures.
- Go do something you enjoy. Whether it’s shopping, reading, biking, watching a movie, meditating, or playing with your dog, doing something purely for the sake of enjoyment can be a great refresher. My favorites are getting lost in a book, movie, or television show because they take my mind off of trying to deal with the frustration of stigma and stigma breaking me down.
- Turn to your support system. I know I harp on this a lot in my posts, but I honestly don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t maintain my social support system, even for something like this. There are a handful of my friends who can attest to me, on multiple occasions, discussing or venting about being exhausted with mental health stigma and feeling like I’m not making a dent. It makes a big and positive difference to be able to do this instead of just stewing in my frustration.