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Coming Out

When we talk about mental health often, we learn that we can deal with mental health stigma if it happens but it's not easy to talk about mental illness. Telling people about your mental illness makes it feel like you're inviting the world to blow up -- at least that's how it felt for me. I had such a long list of bad experiences and reactions to my mental illnesses, especially skin picking disorder, that it just seemed ludicrous to willingly tell somebody about them. Yet, repeatedly facing the potential of stigma both online and offline has taught me that the world won't end when I tell people I have mental illnesses and talk about mental health. And knowing that has made it easier to take on stigma every time.
You may want to share your mental health story, but feel afraid even though many people have opened up about mental illness. We know that talking about mental health encourages others to do so as well. That sense of community and having a precedent of someone else talking about mental illness may have paved the way for you. However, seeing the negative reactions stories about mental illness have a habit of getting can be a deterrent. Mental health stigma can cause a lot of fear and anxiety. Here are some tips on how to get past that fear of stigma when you want to share your mental health story.
It is often difficult to know when to tell new friends about our mental illness, or even one that a family member suffers due to mental health stigma. Many people who face stigma are judged by others, especially when making new friends, but it can still be important to be honest about your mental illness and reveal it as soon as you are comfortable.
Politics and the impact of mental illness stigma is a topic that has intrigued me for a number of years, and the discussion of politicians experiencing mental illness stigma raises a number of important points and questions. There are many politicians who certainly do have a mental illness, but you will never know about it, especially if it is a highly stigmatized mental illness such as schizophrenia. It is unfortunate that several stigmatized individuals in our society assert that because you have a mental illness, you cannot, and should not, rightfully be a person who can be trusted to represent the interests of society on the political stage.
It seems more often these days that celebrities are coming out and admitting to the world that they have a mental illness (Do Celebrity Disclosures of Mental Illness Help End Stigma?). Some people feel that celebrities are glamorizing the issue and not demonstrating the realities of a person who lives with a mental illness (Is Having A Mental Illness A Gift?). However, I consider this act of honesty to be both empowering and courageous because their voices are not only prominent, but most importantly influential.
As many walk by the people that inhabit the streets as a home, many of us consider that because someone is homeless that they must have a mental illness. I teach in the classrooms that this is not the case, but, ironically, it is the situation a lot of the time. As we are approached by people begging for change, wearing no pants, or screaming relentlessly in the streets, we are often correct in assuming that these individuals have significant mental health challenges.
For more than two years, I wrote about my struggles with anorexia nervosa and the associated depression and anxiety that came with it on HealthyPlace's Surviving ED blog. I was proud that I was unfailingly honest about my thoughts, fears, and actions while attempting to recover from an eating disorder. I felt that was the only way to connect and help others, and I didn't regret it. Until recently.
By now, I would hope that you all have heard about the Stand Up for Mental Health campaign that is running here on HealthyPlace.  But, what do we really mean when we say ‘stand up’ and what can you do today to make this project a success?
This is part two of an interview where I explore the inner-world of Electroboy, Andy Behrman. Mr. Behrman speaks candidly about bipolar myths, combating stigma, mania, depression and everything in between. In part one, Mr. Behrman discusses bipolar mania, his use of drugs and alcohol, and hypersexuality.
From a young age, promising athletes are instructed to show no fear, to be the toughest, fastest and most fearless competitors on the field. They are also told to never show weakness, whether it be physical or mental. And that fear of showing weakness, could be the culprit behind so many suicides and mental health issues in both professional and amateur sports.
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