Surviving Mental Health Stigma During Awareness Efforts
Surviving mental health stigma during awareness efforts might seem like the last thing anyone would need to do. After all, awareness efforts are designed to foster honest conversation and combat the stigma around mental health and mental illnesses. Despite the good of these efforts, however, there are still ways that people might be negatively impacted by them.
Awareness Efforts Can Invite Mental Health Stigma
There are numerous mental health and specific mental illness awareness days, weeks, and months throughout the year. Just last month, we had World Suicide Prevention Day and Month, and this month there are even more, including Mental Illness Awareness Week and Mental Health Awareness Month. They're each wonderful at combatting mental health stigma and helping people with these disorders feel heard and seen ("Mental Health Awareness Weeks Are Important to Combat Stigma").
It seems absolutely oxymoronic to think awareness efforts can invite mental health stigma, but here's something to consider.
By their nature, awareness efforts open up conversation on their given topics, and when people start talking about mental health, mental health stigma is often quick at its heels. I've seen countless awareness posts where people spew vitriol and pretty much spit in the face of the efforts. For those who are still feeling the sting of mental health stigma strongly, this can compound the negativity and fear ("Stigma and Discrimination: The Effects of Stigma").
Before I was open about my mental illnesses, there was always this worry in my mind that there was no way people couldn't know about my struggles, and every step felt like an invite to stigma. When it came to awareness efforts, that was magnified. Every time I might have shared or even liked an awareness post, I was worried about what stigma might follow. It made me hesitant to participate.
3 Tips for Surviving Mental Health Stigma During Awareness Efforts
Knowing the increased risk I felt of being stigmatized during mental health awareness efforts, I know others feel this, too. First, I'd like to say this: it's okay. You don't have to jump from fearing stigma to challenging it openly. It's okay to take time to build up to it. For those who aren't there yet, here are ways you can survive mental health stigma during awareness days, weeks, and months:
- Don't read comments on awareness posts on social media. Many organizations and people you know might share posts across their online social platforms, which opens the door for a wide range of responses. It's best to avoid these all together so that you don't have to worry about the stigmatizing comments you may find.
- Don't participate in awareness activities if you're not comfortable. I know awareness efforts can create this sense of obligation to participate, and that if you don't, you're not doing your part. I know there are people cheering on the efforts silently, and I appreciate you just as much as those shouting from the rooftops.
- Spend less time online. Mental health awareness efforts aren't exclusive to the online world, but that's where a large chunk of it takes place. If you're feeling sensitive to the mental health stigma you might come across, it's helpful to cut back on the time spent online and reduce the chance of digital self-harm.
These are just a few tips I thought of for surviving mental health stigma during these periods of awareness, and ones I know would have helped me. The more tips we can share with each other, the better. Share yours in the comments.
Barton, L. (2020, October 5). Surviving Mental Health Stigma During Awareness Efforts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, December 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2020/10/surviving-mental-health-stigma-during-awareness-efforts
Author: Laura A. Barton
I appreciate the honesty of this post. While mental health awareness days/months certainly mean well, their delivery and impact sometimes stray from what was initially intended. The "3 tips to surviving mental health stigma during awareness efforts" is spot on. The increased frequency of awareness efforts, especially on social media platforms, brings about a wide range of comments that rev up the lasting stigma around mental health. Reading these stigmatizing comments can bring about a "self-stigma". Some individuals may begin to internalize these stigmas and "believe that they are less valued because of their psychiatric disorder" (Corrigan, 2002). This is why it's best to avoid the comments on these posts, as we have to remember that anyone can comment on such things.
Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2002). Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 1(1), 16–20.
Hey there, Jaymie. It sounds like you and I are on the same page with this situation, and I'm glad that my tips resonated with you. Thanks for taking the time to read through my blog, and I appreciate you sharing that article as well! I'll be sure to check it out. :)