What Does Life Look Like Beyond Mental Health Stigma?
What does life look like beyond mental health stigma? I get this sense that we only see mental health stigma as this negative cloud hanging over living with mental illness, and then beyond that, it's all sunshine. We look toward that perceived sunshine with eagerness, but what I've discovered is it might not only be sunshine waiting for us.
I'm still of the mind that stigma probably will never be fully eradicated, but we can change and even eliminate its impact on us ("What If Mental Illness Stigma Never Goes Away?"). We can stop stigma from silencing us about our mental health struggles and have honest conversations about living with mental illnesses. We can stop stigma from making us feel bad for being sick. So what happens when we achieve that? What does life look like after we've eliminated the impact of mental health stigma on us?
Mental Health Stigma Isn't the Only Thing that Can Silence Us
I always thought that without mental health stigma, I would be absolutely free to talk about and exist with mental illness. While I am in a position where mental health stigma's impacts on me are very minimal and stigma doesn't silence me any longer, I learned it's not the only thing that can silence us.
I'm comfortable talking about my mental health struggles without worrying about stigma, but there are now other things that stay my words. Life looks different than anticipated as I strove to speak out against how mental illnesses are viewed and treated negatively.
Now it's not the stigma that silences me, but other reactions people might have when I share my struggles, such as pity, worry, or condolences.
You see, I've gotten to a point on a personal level where depression, anxiety, and excoriation (skin-picking) disorder are simply parts of who I am. I don't see them as pitiable or sad, and (most of the time) not worrisome; they just are what they are. And my struggle now is that others don't see them like that, which makes it difficult to talk about them. So most of the time I don't.
Setting Expectations for Mental Health Conversations Beyond Stigma
My goal here isn't to scare anyone, but rather to shed light on the fact that there may still be situations that are tricky to navigate beyond mental health stigma. Life may not look exactly like we're expecting when setting our sights beyond stigma. We'll need to continue to set expectations for the conversations we have. In the following video, I discuss what we can do to continue to strive toward healthy conversations around mental illness.
Barton, L. (2020, May 18). What Does Life Look Like Beyond Mental Health Stigma?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2020/5/what-does-life-look-like-beyond-mental-health-stigma