Taking Care of Ourselves When Facing Mental Health Stigma
Monday, September 18 2017 Laura Barton
We need to take care of ourselves when facing mental health stigma. A little while ago, I was accused of pandering to mental health stigmatizers because in the blog in question I wasn't going for a throwdown against them. There is a reason for that, which is, even though I share tips how to fight stigma and approach stigmatizers, my main concern lies with the mental health community and the damage that can be done to the people in it when they see stigma all around them. We need to take care of ourselves.
Taking Care of Ourselves First in the Face of Mental Health Stigma Is Important
Ultimately, the only people we can control are ourselves, and in the event that mental health stigma never goes away, that's all we're going to be able to do. Because of that, it’s important to understand what we can do to change how we react to stigma instead of trying to change the stigmatizer.
Besides, not everyone is ready or able to get up on their hind legs, so to speak, to go after stigma head-on. For all I know, a young person facing mental health stigma is reading my posts and he wants to know how to cope because he is in a position where he can't fight back, or maybe it's just someone who's tired of trying.
Really, these are the people I expect to be reading my blogs. I don’t expect people who actively perpetuate stigma and solidly believe those stigmatizing ideas to go out of their ways to read mental health blogs (unless they’re looking for a fight), so writing something to them seems rather pointless.
And, honestly, can we really take on the people perpetuating mental health stigma effectively when we don't take care of ourselves? Perhaps in some cases, but I think, overall, it’s in our best interest to be on solid of ground with ourselves before we start taking on something as big as mental health stigma. Think of it as a form of self-care. In doing that, we can learn how to avoid letting whatever will be said in the debate get to us.
Stigma and Taking Care of Ourselves -- Putting People in the Mental Health Community First
While I appreciate the idea and understand the importance of taking down the bad (or woefully misled) guys, we have to prioritize. We have to take care of ourselves in the face of mental health stigma.
My biggest priority is to take care of people within the mental health community. To me, that means helping to ease the struggle they feel while simultaneously letting them know their hurt is heard and valid. As someone who suffered silently for around 15 years, it is important to me to break that cycle. I want people to know mental illness doesn't have to equate lifelong pain and there is more to this life than the negativity surrounding mental illness.
The way I do that is by writing posts such as the ones I do for this website and other forms of mental health advocacy. It’s important to me to highlight that we can do something to better our own situations despite all the garbage we have to deal with in a world where mental illness is misunderstood and even denied.