Some people with mental illness isolate themselves to feel protected from mental health stigma. Because stigma labels someone as an outlier, many people withdraw when feeling stigmatized for their mental health. Apart from the stigma of mental illness and self-stigma making us feel poorly about ourselves in general, seeing stigmatizing ideas all over the media, hearing them spoken to us, or even thinking them to ourselves can amplify the sense of isolation that mental illness already brings. We need ways to counter the isolation that mental health stigma brings as loneliness can lead to hopelessness and negatively impact recovery.
4 Ways to Counter Feelings of Isolation Brought on by Mental Health Stigma
These are some techniques I’ve used when I’ve felt isolated because of mental health stigma. Some are more solitary because I’m prone to withdrawing for a bit to recharge from negative experiences, but it’s important to remember to include other people over time, too, thereby really removing the isolation (How Much Alone Time Is Healthy in Mental Illness Recovery?).
- Join a support group. Even if it’s only online, joining support groups shows not only that you’re not alone with what you’re dealing with, but that you’re not alone with the stigma you’ve faced because of it. Many people in support groups share about experiences they’ve had with mental health stigma, looking for peer support or even just to rant. Sometimes people even have helpful advice.
- Read books by people who’ve written about their mental illnesses. They don’t necessarily have to be autobiographies, but just books from authors who open up and share. It could even be a book of poetry. Reading these books gives me a sense of connectivity because I can identify with the authors’ words and experiences. Some of my favorites to turn to are If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Lost and Found and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski, Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, and Boy Meets Depression: Or Life Sucks and Then You Live by Kevin Breel.
- Listen to music. Music has a way of waking up our souls like nothing else does; the combination of the music and the lyrics speaks to me. Understanding that the lyricist has written this and so many other people are needing the song for the same reason has a way of peeling away the isolation. Music also is good for blocking out the negativity that’s stuck on repeat in my head.
- Watch videos of speakers sharing about mental illness, or go in person if you can. I’ve heard a few speakers, both via video online and in person and both are very moving experiences. Hearing a person’s story from his own mouth, hearing his voice, and seeing the body language that goes with it all makes a big difference in how a message is delivered. I tend to walk away from these speakers feeling powerful and hopeful — quite the opposite of when I’ve gone in to see them sometimes. It’s a verbal and visual reminder of someone else existing beyond ourselves (TED Talks for Confidence and Motivation).
It’s Important to Be Aware of Mental Health Stigma, Even for Ourselves
When mental health stigma affects us negatively, we can’t just ignore it. We need to process it for ourselves. If we let it fester away inside of us, it has the chance of making us feel even more alone in this world. Using methods such as those I mentioned above are important in helping us process and keeping us grounded.
Perhaps you have some different tactics in mind, but whatever process it is you use, do your best to remember that you’re never as alone as the stigma of mental illness would have you believe.