3 Tips for Managing Stigmatizing Thoughts
Despite my best efforts and all that I do, I sometimes catch myself thinking stigmatizing thoughts related to mental health and people with mental illness. I'm sure others do too, especially those who may be new to the mental health sphere. There are steps we can take to manage those stigmatizing thoughts to turn them around and lessen their frequency.
Thoughts that Stigmatize Mental Illness Aren't Always Intentional
We're human. Unintentional stigmatizing thoughts happen. But that doesn't absolve us of responsibility ("Why Ignorance Isn't an Excuse for Mental Health Stigma").
Whether you're someone already immersed in knowledge of mental health or just learning, you may have caught yourself having an unfair thought about mental illness or someone with it that you realize fits into mental health stigma. I know I have. It's always a surprising experience and I end up feeling guilty — but feeling guilty alone doesn't accomplish anything. It's what we do with that guilt to learn to change or manage those thoughts that make a difference.
3 Things to Ask Yourself About Stigmatizing Thoughts
- Where did I hear/learn this? Mental health stigma usually comes from two places: dated ideas and media portrayals (fictional and non-fictional) of people with mental illness ("3 Mental Illness Myths Common in Fiction"). More things to consider in these instances are what might be shaping those ideas and what motives the narrative has for presenting mental illness in the way it is. For instance, dated ideas come from a lack of understanding about mental illness overall, how it affected people, and what it meant for people with it.
- Is it true? Think about this question once you've figured out the origins and why they might exist. If you're not sure if something is true or a mental illness myth, take some time to look up more information or speak with someone who has a mental illness.
- How might it affect someone else? To me, this is the most important question. The other two, while important, are kind of abstract in that they're conceptualizing mental illness. This question brings it to the real world. Try to put yourself in others' shoes ("What Mental Illness Has Taught Me About Empathy"). How would you feel if someone had a wrong idea, any sort of the wrong idea, about you? Especially one that painted you in a negative light? Knowing how stigma affects people with mental illness can definitely help when it comes to managing stigmatizing thoughts.
As I said, we're human, and on top of making mistakes, our thoughts aren't always going to be perfect. I read somewhere that the negative thoughts that pop into our heads are often the things that we've been taught or that have been programmed into us, similar to propaganda. When we encounter those thoughts, it's up to us to stop and consider them. With these tips and practice, we can get better at managing our stigmatizing thoughts and making positive changes.
Barton, L. (2019, February 11). 3 Tips for Managing Stigmatizing Thoughts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, June 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2019/2/3-tips-for-managing-stigmatizing-thoughts