How the Fear of Mental Health Stigma Impacts Day-to-Day Life
Although mental health stigma and its impacts are often compartmentalized into specific moments or situations, the fear of mental health stigma has an impact on day-to-day life. It affects the way we carry ourselves and the way we navigate our days, and recognizing this can help garner a better understanding of stigma's impact.
A Glimpse at the Day-to-Day Life of Someone Fearful of Mental Health Stigma
I'd like to take a moment to glimpse at what a day in the life of someone fearful of mental health stigma looks like. I used to be that person, and now looking back, I can see the various ways the fear of mental health stigma for each of my mental illnesses shaped the way I went about life.
Because of the fears I had of encountering mental health stigma throughout the day, getting ready in the morning took a while. I would worry in particular that because of my skin-picking disorder, I would face unfair judgement and harsh questions. So I'd spend a lot of time in the morning covering not only open wounds but also scars that seemed just a bit too dark with bandages. Or, if there were too many, I'd resort to wearing long clothes, even in extreme heat. This resulted in a lot of time spent agonizing over what clothes would best cover the marks as well as many uncomfortable summer days.
For the days when I didn't completely hide the picking marks and scars, I physically changed how I held my body so the marks weren't in direct view. Maybe it was sitting with one arm constantly under the table or it was turning my body a certain way. Something that I imagine is an unconscious act for others was a concerted effort for me because of the fear I had of being stigmatized for my skin.
I was also fearful of mental health stigma toward my depression and anxiety. I worried that how I carried myself because of these mental illnesses would cause people to think I was attention-seeking or too broken to be worth anyone's time. Overanalyzing my words before speaking comes hand-in-hand with my anxiety, but it seemed exacerbated by this idea that one misstep would lead to negative judgement in the form of mental health stigma.
Mental Health Stigma Causes Fear that Changes How You Navigate Life
Sometimes I wonder if people don't give much thought to stigma because it's thought of as just a moment we should move on from. Even if it's a collection of individual instances, it might not seem insurmountable. The truth of it is that mental health stigma causes fear that impacts day-to-day life and changes how you navigate it.
I've only really come to notice this as I continue to move beyond being impacted by mental health stigma. Getting ready in the morning doesn't take so long and I don't suffer through hot weather anymore in long clothes. I don't worry about what people will think of my brokenness because negative thoughts people have about me due to my mental illness says more about them.
My goal with this is to add to and expand upon the conversation as we examine mental health stigma and our efforts to conquer it. A true understanding of the extent of the impact, I believe, will help with reducing stigma overall. Taking into consideration how the fear of mental health stigma impacts a person's day-to-day life is another step in that direction.
Barton, L. (2020, July 13). How the Fear of Mental Health Stigma Impacts Day-to-Day Life, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2020/7/how-the-fear-of-mental-health-stigma-impacts-day-to-day-life