While practicing gratitude can be a great way to encourage positivity during a mental health struggle, it can also play a role in mental health stigma. It may not seem like it, but there are ways gratitude can negatively impact someone who is struggling with a mental health condition.
Impact of Stigma
Is it mental health stigma? This is a great question to ask ourselves as not everything we encounter is. When we have mental health issues, we can be hypersensitive to any sort of situation that seems to involve our mental health or mental health in general. With this can come the sense that many things are a manifestation of stigma. It's important to recognize, however, that no everything is mental health stigma, even if what we're facing is negative.
When we're combatting mental health stigma, it's important to be as inclusive as possible. One of the ways we fight stigma is to talk about or try to convey the idea that our experiences don't have to fit in a box and that there isn't any shame in not having everything together, in being "messy." But does this saturation of messages mean it's not okay to be, for lack of a better word, "neat?"
The stigma surrounding drug addiction can be just as pervasive as drug addiction itself. It's important to realize that spreading drug addiction stigma doesn't address the overall issue of drug addiction or to people recovering from the illness.
Mental health stigma centers a lot around silent struggle. Often we think about it in terms of stigma leading to shame and people being silent in their struggles. But to further complicate it, mental health stigma also tells us there's pride to be found in silent struggle.
#YouCantCensorMySkin is a backlash against Instagram's attempt to censor self-harm scars on the platform. There are many reasons why something might be censored. In the mental health sphere, it's often done in an attempt to avoid negatively impacting others by triggering them. This is especially true for self-harm, but it begs the question of at what point does censorship become stigma?
When it comes to the stigma associated with suicide, you may think of the shaming. But on the other end of the spectrum, there's romanticizing suicide. Although it may seem harmless, romanticizing suicide can be just as damaging as shaming it, and we need it to stop.
We miss the signs of mental struggle others are going through because mental health stigma presents warped ideas of what mental illness and the people with it look like. If we're only looking for those that fit a certain mold when trying to pick out someone with mental illness, chances are we're going to miss those who are in a mental struggle.
Using ignorance as an excuse doesn't mean what someone said or did wasn't stigmatizing toward mental health or, more specifically, mental illness. Why? Because stigma isn't about intent. Stigma is the negative ideas and misconceptions of mental illness, whether intended or not. Ignorance only determines whether you're mistakenly stigmatizing mental health or doing it on purpose. But stigma is stigma, whether you know any better or not.
I believe there are two kinds of stigma: verbal and non-verbal. We often think of stigma towards mental illness as being only the things people say. In doing so, we forget that non-verbal stigma exists and can be just as negatively impactful as verbalized stigma. But what does non-verbal stigma encompass?