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How Do We Overcome The Stigma Of Mental Illness?

Written by:

Obi Obadike

Obi Obadike

Celebrity Fitness & Nutrition Expert, CFT, SFN, M.S. Founder & CEO – Ethical Inc.
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How do we overcome the stigma of mental illness? We still live in society where people treat you differently if they believe that you have some form of a mental condition or illness. Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you are different. And stigma can happen if you are black, Asian, Indian, a woman, a different religious belief, etc.

Stigma often leads to discrimination and that discrimination can be hidden at times and you don’t even know it. If it is obvious especially at your workplace it can make you feel uncomfortable and not want to go to work.

 You will start feel like you are doing something wrong as opposed to being the victim. The hard part about someone that has a mental illness is who do you turn to for help. And that comes with anxiety and fear to ask for help for your mental condition. And to ask for help if you are a victim of being stigmatized.

How do we overcome the stigma of mental illness? Photo credit: iStock- tommaso79

Some Things To Do To Deal With Stigma

  • Join a support group. There are a lot of local and national groups that can help such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI). The offer great resources and programs for families to help reducing stigma and educating people on how to deal with mental illness.
  • Don’t Isolate Yourself. Don’t be afraid to talk about it with friends, family, clergy, loved ones because it will help you. And it is therapeutic to talk to someone. Only reach out to people who you can trust and who care and really love you.
  • Get Treatment. First get diagnosed by a specialist and then get proper treatment for help. Don’t let it just fester if you think there is a serious problem that you have. Being untreated can be the worst situation for you.
  • Don’t Let Stigma Affect How You Feel. When people treat you in a negative way because of your condition it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with their inability to deal with someone that has a mental illness or is different than them. Don’t let it bother you and if you need to vent to someone on how you feel then do it.

Venting and talking about it will make you feel better. Talking about the stigma that you face in an online letter or even online in a blog format can help other people who are also dealing with the same mental illness stigma.

People with mental illness are afraid to talk about their health issues with most people. And the reason is fear of being treated differently or fear of the negative attitudes they may receive. When you talk about mental health, and you talk about your personal mental health condition it will be therapeutic for you.

It is important to only do it with people who care about you and people you can trust. Talking to a support group or close family and friends is a form of personal medicine for you. Not being able to talk to someone is the worst thing you can do for yourself.

I have a younger brother who has been mentally institutionalized since 2007 and I have been the conservator to him for that timeframe. So have a personal experience of dealing with a family member with a bipolar disorder and or mental illness for 30 years.

So, I feel I have a personal experience being able to talk about the stigma of mental illness because I saw it in my brother in how he was treated for so many years.

The Bottom Line is being stigmatized if you have a mental illness is very common in our society unfortunately. But it is important to understand that you are not alone and there are many local and national groups that can help you deal with this type of stigma.

Talking to people that you can trust and that care and love you will help in dealing with any type of stigma. The more of a support system you have the better it will be for you in not allowing any negative stigma to affect how you feel about yourself.

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References

  1. StigmaFree me. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Take-the-stigmafree-Pledge/StigmaFree-Me. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  2. What is stigma? Why is it a problem? National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/stigmafree. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  3. Stigma and mental illness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics/stigma-illness.htm. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  4. Sickel AE, et al. Mental health stigma: Impact on mental health treatment attitudes and physical health. Journal of Health Psychology. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1359105316681430. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  5. Americans with Disabilities Act and mental illness. Womenshealth.gov. https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/your-rights/americans-disability-act.html. Accessed April 25, 2017.
  6. Picco L, et al. Internalized stigma among psychiatric outpatients: Associations with quality of life, functioning, hope and self-esteem. Psychiatric Research. 2016;246:500.

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