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Is It Mental Health Stigma? Not Everything Is

December 16, 2019 Laura A. Barton

Is it mental health stigma? This is a great question to ask ourselves as not everything we encounter is. When we have mental health issues, we can be hypersensitive to any sort of situation that seems to involve our mental health or mental health in general. With this can come the sense that many things are a manifestation of stigma. It's important to recognize, however, that no everything is mental health stigma, even if what we're facing is negative.

Take a Moment to Pause and Consider if Something Is Mental Health Stigma

I was recently in a situation where my thoughts were spiraling at warp speed. In these situations, I combat the din in my head by putting in my headphones and turning music on high. By focusing on the songs, I'm better able to ignore the negative thoughts cycling in my head and can regain control of myself.

As those of us with mental health issues know, these things can happen no matter where we are. In this case, I was in a public setting where the expectation was to participate and be social. Of course, what I was doing was not only blocking out the noise in my head, but the people around me as well. Lo and behold, someone felt the need to remind me of this.

My first thought was that this person was stigmatizing my mental health coping mechanism. But then I paused and thought, "Is that really what's happening?"

While I would say the person was perhaps inconsiderate and jumping to conclusions that I was being rude, that's not quite the same as mental health stigma.

So this got me thinking that while people may be inconsiderate, that doesn't directly relate to stigma. Yes, people can unintentionally contribute to mental health stigma. ("Why Ignorance Isn't an Excuse for Mental Health Stigma") My argument here isn't about whether it's intentional; rather it's about considering if something truly is stigma.

Realizing Not Everything Is Mental Health Stigma Is Freeing

Taking the time to assess a situation and ask ourselves "is it mental health stigma?" can make a big difference in how we react outwardly and inwardly to these kinds of situations. Realistically, both can suck, but depending on the circumstances, I feel one can be more negatively impacting than the other, with stigma being the more severe of the two.

Going back to my situation, when I immediately though stigma, it felt like an attack when I was already struggling to stand. When I rethought it, I was able to brush it off more easily. I'm not often negatively impacted emotionally by mental health stigma, but I always consider if I want to pick a battle with it based on whether I have the energy for it that day. Then I worry that I'm not doing enough to fight mental health stigma when I choose to let it go. ("Am I Doing Enough to Fight Mental Health Stigma?")

I definitely wasn't going to be picking any battles this time around, so I was relieved when I realized there was no battle to pick anyway. 

If we're constantly looking for mental health stigma everywhere, that can be draining. It's hard to exist if you're constantly in fight or flight most, so realizing not everything is an act or result of stigma is freeing. It also takes away a bit of the bleak edge that stigma leaves in our perspectives otherwise.

It may take some practice and brain retraining, but I encourage you to stop and consider if what you're facing or witnessing is mental health stigma. Really assess it if you can. In doing so, I hope it helps lessen the impact even the idea of mental health stigma can have.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2019, December 16). Is It Mental Health Stigma? Not Everything Is, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, December 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2019/12/is-it-mental-health-stigma-not-everything-is



Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from the Niagara Region in Ontario, Canada. Find her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.

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