On Overcoming Mental Health Stigma
Overcoming mental health stigma is not something I would have thought possible. It's such a pervasive and negative force that it can seem insurmountable. Yet, upon reflection, I know mental health stigma is not affecting me like it once did.
If you're on any of the multitudes of social media platforms, you've likely come across the "10-year challenge." Mostly, it's people sharing pictures of themselves at the beginning of the decade and one from this year. It's a fascinating look at how things have changed and how we've each changed as people. Overall, it's put me in a reflective mood.
A decade. It's somehow both a single breath and eons. And, man, has a lot changed.
In some ways, I struggle no less with my mental illnesses than I did 10 years ago. As an example, if you've followed my blogs on this website, you know that self-stigma sometimes still gets the better of me. Still, I'm not in the same place I was a decade ago and how I respond to mental illness and mental health stigma has seen an evolution.
A decade ago, I was terrified to even think of having a sick brain. The weight of stigma was crushing and I was certain every negative thing it proposed was true. To have a sick brain meant I was detestable, that I had no worth as a human, and was simply too weak to overcome my own problems.
It took a lot of time and a lot of heartache, but now I know none of that is true. I see the lies and mental illness myths for what they are. I know mental health stigma, like all stigma, stems from ideas bred by ignorance. I know that its pervasiveness is indicative of those who spread it and has nothing to do with me as a person.
Most importantly, I know it's possible to survive and overcome it.
3 Strategies I Used to Overcome Mental Health Stigma
Lessening the effects mental health stigma has on me didn't happen overnight. I've narrowed it down to the three most effective strategies I used to overcome mental health stigma.
- Challenge mental health stigma, even if only for yourself. Rather than trying to actively take on stigma, I would ask myself a series of questions: is it true, where did the idea come from, what is the truth? This works to effectively expose the misconceptions and myths that create stigma.
- Push your limits to prove you can survive mental health stigma. Stigma can seem earth-shattering. By putting myself in situations where I might be exposed to stigma, I learned that, sure, it still sucks sometimes, but it isn't the end of times and I could survive.
- Only take on one part of mental health stigma at a time. Baby steps are hugely important in these already emotionally charged situations. Tackling one thing at a time gives us time to process and protects us from becoming overwhelmed. I also found once I dismantled one area of stigma, the rest fell apart mostly on their own.
Overcoming Mental Health Stigma in the New Decade
What I'd like you to take away as we head into this new decade is that mental health stigma is not insurmountable. It takes effort and support. Sometimes it takes struggle and tears. Breaking free from stigma may not even look as you're expecting. Maybe it feels like you haven't made any progress in the last 10 years. That's okay.
Overcoming mental health stigma takes time and is a process. Go at your own pace and continue striving for it. Keep at it as we venture into the new year and the new decade. You can overcome mental health stigma -- you will get there.
Barton, L. (2019, December 30). On Overcoming Mental Health Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, December 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2019/12/on-overcoming-mental-health-stigma