I don't talk about my anxiety a lot. Part of that, I think, is because of how mental health stigma has shaped anxiety disorder as worries or thoughts that people can't seem to get past. It's difficult to explain to those people the depth of anxiety's impact, and sometimes even for those who do have a better concept and understanding of it, it can be tough to relay exactly how it feels.
Stigma and Society's Perception of Mental Illness
Mental health crises can happen anywhere at any moment, such as in a public place. Time and time again, I've seen those public moments captured in photos and videos online, turning a moment of pain into a show that people seem to feel entitled to gawk at and criticize. This needs to stop because mental health crises are not spectacles. Making them into such is stigmatizing and potentially harmful to the individual struggling.
When you're up against something and constantly pushing back against it, it's inevitable to wonder if the efforts are achieving anything. For instance, are we making progress combatting mental health stigma? There are campaigns upon campaigns, advocates upon advocates, so many voices and messages joining and leading the conversations about mental wellness and mental illness alike year after year. Surely, we must be making some progress combatting mental health stigma, right?
Mental health stigma not only changes how we perceive people, but it also changes the perception of learned behavior. When we take a deeper dive into behaviors that are written off with the excuse of the person doing them being "unstable" or with even harsher language, such as "psycho," it becomes clearer how mental health stigma can mask learned poor behaviors.
Mental health stigma is easier than compassion for those who struggle with mental health issues. Have you ever thought about how easily people seem to stigmatize others for their mental health struggles? The words are part of commonplace conversation and the way people with mental illness are treated is almost commonplace behavior. It doesn't take effort to participate in stigma.
There are a number of facets in the relationship between hygiene and mental health stigma. We probably recognize that mental illness affects hygiene, but the relationship extends to how both are viewed and the overall impact because of that relationship. This is where stigma comes into the picture.
Privilege has a role in overcoming mental health stigma, although it's not often at the forefront of our conversations in this sphere. I hadn't thought about it until recently, but when I mull over it and think about the many ways that privilege manifests, I can absolutely see privilege's role in overcoming the stigma around mental health.
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.
To some degree, we're each aware mental health treatment is stigmatized, and that stigma is one of the barriers to people seeking professional guidance for mental illness and mental health struggles. What I don't think people would expect is how this stigma can also manifest in people's good intentions in conversations about mental health treatment.
During a time where the world is pushing for positivity and forward-moving action, it can be especially difficult when you're not able to do that. The fact of the matter is that it's okay to struggle with your mental health during difficult times and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Despite all the messages asserting that struggling isn't an acceptable response, it is.