Let's face it, mental illness symptoms can make communication difficult. When it comes to mental illness, a lot of people seem to have it in their heads that those who have, and suffer from, mental illness are strictly tragic figures. When people share their stories of overcoming the sad brokenness their mental illness has brought them, we champion them and hold them in high regard. And we should, but not all people with mental illnesses fit that narrative. We need to communicate what mental illness really is.
Surviving Mental Health Stigma
“Man up” is some of the most unhelpful, stigmatizing advice a person can give to a man with mental illness. Recently, Piers Morgan has come under fire for questioning a statistic that says two-thirds of Britain’s population has experienced mental illness in their lifetime (Mental Health Statistics and Facts). The problem wasn’t necessarily that he was questioning the statistic, but his statement of Britain needing to “man up.” When this is applied to mental illness, "man up" just increased mental health stigma.
Keeping a journal is a powerful way to make yourself feel better and fight mental health stigma. Most Psychiatrists and counselors will agree that there are many reasons why you should keep a journal. One of them is that keeping a journal allows you a safe place where mental health stigma doesn't exist and can't harm you (23 Journal Prompts to Improve Self-Esteem).
Many xon't know this, but a mental health community can reduce the impact of stigma. One thing that mental illness is really good at is making a person feel isolated and alone, which is a perfect way for stigma and self-stigma to thrive. There are a number of ways to combat that, such as reading more about the illness to learn the facts versus the fiction. But another way to effectively combat whatever sort of stigma comes along is to immerse oneself in a mental health community to reduce the impact of stigma and connect with others who have similar experiences.
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 important to arm yourself with knowledge so you can fight mental health stigma whenever you encounter it. You may be seeking this knowledge for many reasons: for yourself, for a family member, or for people you work around or interact with who have a mental illness. By seeking knowledge on mental health, you can stop stigmatizing beliefs on the spot when you encounter people who have misunderstandings or believe mental health myths. By arming yourself with knowledge, you can help stop mental health stigma.
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.
Scars from mental illness are common but if we show them, are we attention-seeking. In today’s society, we have a very weird relationship with scars. More often than not, I see them treated as a source of shame, even if there’s absolutely no reason for that shame. Surgical scars, scars from accidents, scars from scrapes and falls—generally speaking, they’re kept under wraps because they’re seen as “defects” to our skin. When it comes to scars from mental illness, that shame doubles (To Hide or Not to Hide Self-Harm Scars).
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.
In recent years, the mental health community has been working to phase out the term “commit suicide” because of the negative connotations that are attributed to it. It really came on my radar two years ago when I attended a suicide prevention walk in St. Catharine's, Ontario and spoke with Denise Waligora, who works with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Waligora shared with me the stigma associated with the term "commit suicide" and how it was associated with crime and sinfulness (Talk About Suicide to Erase the Shame of Talking About Suicide).