Coping with Unintentional Mental Health Stigma
Coping with unintentional mental health stigma is an important skill to have. The reason for that is even people with the best intentions can stigmatize mental health with their words or actions. Although they might not mean any harm, there's still the potential for harm, and having the tools to cope with those situations is useful.
What Is Unintentional Mental Health Stigma?
Knowing what unintentional mental health stigma is can be helpful for processing it when you come across it. I've gone over how unintentional stigma counts as mental health stigma in a previous blog post titled "Why Ignorance Isn't an Excuse for Mental Health Stigma." Unintentional stigma is situations that are or feel stigmatizing even when the person or scenario didn't mean to be negative toward mental health struggles. This could come about in many ways, such as someone saying an offhanded comment or an organization sticking to a policy without realizing the damage it can do to those with mental health issues.
The latter of those two scenarios is why this topic was on my mind. Recently, Facebook has been removing images in private groups for support for excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, stating that they go against the site policy. Being a member of those groups, I know how useful a tool they can be during times of struggle. When I first joined, it was helpful for me to openly share my struggles, including using pictures, so I can empathize with those who have had their images removed. I can see how it'd feel like stigma.
In this case, I don't think the policy means to be stigmatizing. Facebook is just doing what it can to moderate a behemoth of a website without realizing the impact on this group of people. This places it under unintentional stigma, and having a set of skills can help with coping with this kind of situation. I've got some ideas about how to build that muscle.
How Can I Cope with Unintentional Mental Health Stigma?
As I've mentioned a number of times, I see a lot of value in building the skills to cope with mental health stigma because we can't always control the stigma, and, unfortunately, not everyone is receptive to changing or even aware that they're being stigmatizing toward mental health. Here are a few ideas for how to cope with unintentional mental health stigma.
- Reach out to others in your support network. Friends, family, or even others in support groups can help with navigating the emotional aftermath of feeling stigmatized for your mental health struggles.
- Write out your feelings. Getting the thoughts out of your head can help with processing them and figuring out how to move forward. Write them down in a journal, on a note on your phone, or in a document on your computer.
- Keep trying to cope. Even if it feels like you're not coping well, that's okay. The more you work at it, the more you'll learn about yourself and what you can consider to get yourself through mental health stigma.
Coping with mental health stigma isn't particularly easy to begin with, but unintentional stigma can be even more difficult because it doesn't come from the same place as comments or actions based on negative ideas about mental health. Learning to cope with unintentional mental health stigma can take time, but it is possible. Just keep working at it, and I'm sure you'll have a solid set of skills to get you through these moments.
Barton, L. (2020, December 14). Coping with Unintentional Mental Health Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, July 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2020/12/coping-with-unintentional-mental-health-stigma
Author: Laura A. Barton
This is such a tender topic and one that you discussed beautifully. The more conversations like these that we can have the more everyone can really understand stigma, what it looks like and what the impact of it can be. I think your suggestions for coping are excellent and I love your idea to write out your feelings - this is such a beneficial practice for so many things!
Thanks, Lizanne! I know that writing out feelings and other thoughts is super helpful for me, which is one of the reasons that I recommend it so much. I truly believe it can help people, and I hope that's also the case here. :)