As exciting as the holiday season can be, it can also bring up self-stigma about mental health problems. Spending more time with friends and family can lead to a lot of comparisons that may cause shame about one’s position in life. As someone who deals with mental health problems, I sometimes feel like a failure because I think I should be doing so much more, but mental illness has gotten in the way. Dealing with mental health self-stigma is always hard, and the holidays tend to be particularly difficult.
I avoided Student Disability Services in college because of mental health stigma. Although I was diagnosed with various mental health conditions as a teen, it wasn’t until college that I truly realized the debilitating effect mental illness could have on my life. I was highly resistant to the idea when an on-campus counselor first advised me to make an appointment with my university’s Student Disability Services department. Sure, I needed help, but I didn’t need that kind of help.
My name is Rachel Miles, and I am very excited to be joining HealthyPlace to write on Surviving Mental Health Stigma. I was first diagnosed with depression and an eating disorder when I was 16 years old. This resulted in my first hospitalization as well as my first experiences with therapy, medication, and confronting mental health stigma. At the time, I had no idea what a significant part of my life these things would become.
The terms "stigma" and "discrimination" are both used in the world of mental health. There have been debates surfacing about how to talk about people’s negative perceptions and behaviors towards both mental illness and those with mental illness. There are those who say we should stop calling stigma by that term and refer to it as discrimination alone, but, while the two terms are often linked, they are not quite the same thing and having stigma and discrimination separately is beneficial.
There are many ways that fitness can help you fight mental health stigma. One of the ways people form stigmatizing beliefs about those with mental health issues is that they think they are lazy for not working or engaging in society. Mental health stigma makes people believe these myths, but myths can be busted by more individuals who have a mental illness getting healthy exercise and improving their fitness levels.
It is extremely important to your recovery from a mental illness that you not let mental health stigma stop you from achieving your goals. Inside of you are the abilities and passions that can make you happy if you pursue your goals and not allow mental health stigma to stop you from doing what you want most.
Mental health stigma can cause isolation and loneliness in those with mental illness (Mental Illness, Isolation, and Loneliness). No one with a mental health problem should isolate themselves due to mental health stigma because loneliness can lead to more severe problems, even suicide. The loneliness of isolation certainly causes personal grief and sadness for those dealing with mental health stigma.
Fighting mental health stigma dos are important. When talking about mental health stigma and offering some advice for combating it, we often talk in terms of what not to do. Don’t shame someone. Don’t say these things. Don’t believe the lies that stigma tells us. Recently there was a comment left on one of HealthyPlace’s blogs pointing this fact out and asking for some dos in fighting mental health stigma instead. Here are some of those dos, but keep in mind there are tons of other things you can do to fight mental health stigma.
Mental health stigma keeps many from seeking treatment (The Stigma of Seeking Mental Health Help and Treatment). When an illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar exists, two things commonly occur. The first is a symptom of a mental health issue which stigma makes worse called anosognosia. Anosognosia is when you have a mental health diagnosis but lack insight into your condition -- a huge problem with people who suffer from bipolar disorder. When you add this condition to mental health stigma, sufferers will not seek treatment because of these negative attitudes towards mental illness and their recovery period will be a much longer one. But that's not the only problem that may keep you from treatment
When a parent is affected by mental health stigma, there are unique problems that occur (Issues for Parents With Mental Illness). These difficulties can range from a neighbor or friend commenting on your fitness of being a parent while living with a mental health issue, to having to battle for your children during a divorce hearing, or even facing losing your children as a result of a breakdown. The important thing to remember is when you are a parent affected by mental health stigma, there is always hope and you have to focus on getting yourself better first.