Am I Doing Enough to Fight Mental Health Stigma?
Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing enough to fight mental health stigma. In the mental health community, one of the main things we talk about is combatting stigma. So much so that I'd argue there's this sense of pressure to always be going up against it as well. While fighting mental health stigma is important, pressure of any kind can be harmful.
Where Does the Pressure to Fight Mental Health Stigma Come From?
While we often think of this kind of pressure as coming from an external source, it can come from within as well. Even if the feeling of need to fight mental health stigma is loudest externally, it can easily become internalized. When it does, that's when we can start putting pressure on ourselves to always perform and be fighting mental health stigma.
How Does the Pressure to Fight Mental Health Stigma Manifest?
I know for me, I feel the pressure to combat stigma the most when I'm not actively doing something to fight it. I feel in those moments that I'm not doing my part, especially when I can be. here are a couple of examples.
One of the ways I fight stigma is by wearing shorts, t-shirts, and clothes that I like even though I have scarred skin for excoriation (skin-picking) disorder. While this is mostly a way to push back against stigma-induced shame, I also see it as a passive way to combat stigma against scars as it shows other people it's okay to bear our imperfect skin. However, there are times when I want to wear shorts or long sleeves and I worry I'm passing up an opportunity to stick it to mental health stigma.
Another time I worry I'm not doing enough to combat stigma is when I don't challenge every instance of stigma that I come across. Whether it's posts online or something offline, by not addressing it, I get this sense that I'm not doing my part.
Is It Reasonable to Always Fight Mental Health Stigma at Every Moment?
In short: no. It's idealistic to think we can be "on" all the time. Doing this would very quickly lead to burnout, though. Remember, it takes mental and emotional energy to challenge mental health stigma and the people whose beliefs are deeply rooted in it. Imagine having to do that all the time.
Because of that, it's important to evaluate and challenge these concerns we have about not doing enough.
Reconceptualize Moments of 'Not Doing Enough' to Fight Mental Health Stigma as Self-Care
Self-care can help avoid burnout. It's important to take time for ourselves so that we don't jeopardize our own mental health for the sake of the overall battle against stigma. I feel this is especially important because of my belief that mental health stigma may never go away. I share my thoughts in the following video.
Barton, L. (2019, August 26). Am I Doing Enough to Fight Mental Health Stigma?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2019/8/am-i-doing-enough-to-fight-mental-health-stigma
Author: Laura A. Barton
Hi Laura, allow yourself 10 mins to ride this train wreck of a struggle you're having, give yourself permission to cope with it anyway your moment at that time choose, then perhaps ( understand this is a suggestion) realize it's not the load you are carrying that's the issue, be it your diagnosis, environment, situation, stigma, whatever the issue..really doesn't matter... understand only you do. Validation is valued but to what extent? Our worth? Our belief? Once you understand the "need" behind a feeling/emotion that created a response/behavior...ie unmotivated/not enough....you will find freedom...fill that need,
So Laura it's not the load you are carrying, it's how you carry that load...you'll be ok but I have a feeling you have quite a few achievements also inspired a handful of others you may have forgotten of at this time. Perhaps jotting that down may spark your memory. All the best to you!
Thanks for the kind words, Rachel! I totally agree. While validation is great, I'm a believer that understanding what we're dealing with brings freedom from our struggles. Sounds like you and I are on the same page. :)
If you can shamelessly discuss these issues in public you are way ahead of me? Do you find you can earn income as a writer? I can’t. Do you feel a strong urge to write? People used to say I was talented but I feel burned out and not motivated.
I can definitely relate to feelings of burn out and lack of motivation. When I push myself for a long time, there's a good chance that I'll find myself in that situation. Sometimes it just happens though, which is okay, too. It's important in those moments to practice self-care and to be kind to ourselves. Writing is a passion of mine, for sure, but there are some days where I just can't bring myself to put pen to paper or my fingers to the keyboard. Earning a living as a writer isn't easy either, and it may take some creative rethinking of what it means to be a writer to do so.
When it comes to sharing my issues, there are also some days where I just don't have the energy to do it. What I've learned is to recognize that we don't owe anyone our stories. If we can share them, that's great. If not, then that's fine too. Try not to compare yourself too much to other people, especially when you're struggling. Take the time to reach out for help if needed. Check out this link to learn how to find mental health help near you: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/how-to-find-mental-health…
You can get through this, Bill. Take care.
I am so happy to come across this post! More often than we realize it can be so easy for many of us to fall into that pattern of "not enough" thinking, even when (sometimes especially) around things like fighting mental health stigma. I love that you reference self-care as a way to avoid burnout. Self-care is such a wonderful practice, of more than just baths and chocolates, as fantastic as they may be, and I think this speaks to the mental and emotional health care components of it.
It’s great to have you chime in again, Lizanne! I’m glad you liked this blog and that the message speaks to you. :)