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 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2019/8/am-i-doing-enough-to-fight-mental-health-stigma
Author: Laura Barton
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-services-in-your-area
You can get through this, Bill. Take care.