Talk About Mental Health More to Learn How to Survive Stigma
When we talk about mental health often, we learn that we can deal with mental health stigma if it happens but it's not easy to talk about mental illness. Telling people about your mental illness makes it feel like you're inviting the world to blow up -- at least that's how it felt for me. I had such a long list of bad experiences and reactions to my mental illnesses, especially skin picking disorder, that it just seemed ludicrous to willingly tell somebody about them. Yet, repeatedly facing the potential of stigma both online and offline has taught me that the world won't end when I tell people I have mental illnesses and talk about mental health. And knowing that has made it easier to take on stigma every time.
The More I Talk About Mental Health the Less Scary Stigma Becomes
I've learned that the more I talk about mental health, the less scary it becomes to face possible stigma. A few months ago, I started a new job. Typically when it comes to my job, I don't really share about my mental health ("What to Do About Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace"). This is especially true if I'm new to the job because I like to gauge people and prepare myself for what sort of reactions they might have. It usually takes a while for me to warm up to colleagues and to share that kind of information with them. With my newest job, I've already had a few questions about my skin. The first I dodged, but every time after, I've found myself saying that I have a compulsive skin picking disorder. And guess what?
The world didn't end.
Don't get me wrong, after all this time talking about mental health and the advocacy I do, I knew it wouldn't. But I knew I might have to deal with stigma afterward. The difference between now and the past is twofold. One, I knew that I could handle the stigma if it did come. And two, I recognized it may not come at all (and it didn't this time around).
When you live with mental illness, you become accustomed to people reacting badly. What repeatedly being honest about mental health has done is prepare me for surviving stigma when it does occur.
Surviving Mental Health Stigma Once Shows You Can Do It Again
In one of my recent posts, I outlined steps to standing up to mental health stigma. The one I highlight as the most important to me was repeating the process: Talk about mental health often. I stand by that. While we often focus on the education part of talking about mental illness, another positive is the more you face stigma head-on, the more you learn you can survive it. Whether you're standing up to the stigma around mental illness or simply wanting to learn how to make it through the tough stigmatizing moments so you can live more freely, repetition is a key factor in getting there.
Surviving mental health stigma isn't just about surviving in the moment but it's also about being able to live without fearing the next one. Stigma might crop up at the most unexpected times, so knowing that I can handle it if it does — knowing that the world won't come crashing down on me when it does — makes all the difference.
Barton, L. (2018, August 3). Talk About Mental Health More to Learn How to Survive Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2018/8/talk-about-mental-health-more-to-learn-how-to-survive-stigma