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Mental illness is a formidable adversary.
It shadows people everywhere, hindering their private and professional lives. And society doesn’t make things any easier for us. It calls us names or blames us for the affliction.
The list of collective sins goes on and encompasses even more cardinal examples.
Indeed, mental illness stigma weighs heavily on people who are already struggling. This kind of treatment is unjust and misguided at its core. The good news is you’re not powerless and alone in your struggles.
According to estimates, 61.5 million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness.
What is more, overcoming the stigma is more than feasible, and in more than one way too. Embarking on this endeavor lets you focus on combating the mental illness instead of succumbing to despair.
Destructive Influence and Many Faces of Stigma
One of the worst things is about mental illness is that everybody expects you to behave like you’re totally fine.
Any deviation from what is perceived as “normal behavior” is socially sectioned. It invokes a flurry of negative stereotypes and attitudes from family, friends, colleagues, and strangers.
Sometimes, you may just hear a rude remark behind you back or face subtle and unintentional rejection. On other occasions, stigma manifests as outright discrimination, bullying, harassment, and shunning.
Regardless of the exact form it takes, this is a problem that plagues people’s lives. It can result in fewer job opportunities, poor social life, and other woes. It also reinforces negative loops that already swirl in the heads of mentally ill individuals.
For instance, you may start judging yourself even harshly upon experiencing stigma. You harbor more self-doubt and pity than before, abandoning all hopes of progress. A stigma quickly grows on you, as it feeds off your misery.
At this point, you’ve effectively internalized it. That is to say, it becomes an ever-reminding, false testimony to your weakness and unworthiness. It only aggravates the debilitating symptoms that accompany mental illness.
Spotting the Light at the End of the Tunnel
The key thing to remember is there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
More and more people are opening up about their issues, including some celebrities. And you would be surprised how many others conceal internal strife efficiently. They are nevertheless adversely affected, just like you.
The bottom line is that you’re not alone, getting sucked into the abyss.
Another notion to discard is the one equating yourself with the illness. Namely, this issue doesn’t tell the full story of who you are and can’t overshadow all the qualities you hold. It isn’t some permanent, unbreakable curse either.
Just because you feel a certain way now doesn’t mean you’ll always feel like that. People can change the mental tape and with it, their attitude and behavior. They just have to stop repeating the same negative thoughts all over again, thoughts that are a form of learned, self-defeating behavior.
This is how illness alienates you from your true potential and undermines the quality of your life.
Of course, warding off gloomy thoughts is just one way of standing your ground.
Many illnesses have deep-seated causes that have to be addressed differently. Here, the main problem is that people are reluctant to seek help and treatment.
They would rather hide their illness and bottle up a ton of negativity until it eventually erupts. Fear of getting labeled is too much to bear.
This impulse is understandable, but most often proves to be a dire mistake. This is especially true for people that confront other, related problems, such as addiction.
The truth is there’s no shortage of tried and tested methods for tackling these problems. PHP treatment is one of them. It stands for the Partial Hospitalization Program and entails intense sessions and care.
Specialists are trained to get to the root of your condition and come up with a proper diagnosis. This paves the way for effective treatment symptom amelioration. So, don’t hesitate to opt for counseling and undergo treatment.
In less severe cases, you can start by educating yourself on your particular illness. Then, become vocal about it and talk to your friends and family members. Don’t be dismayed if they can’t come to terms with it right away.
Building Networks of Support
If you can’t get enough compassion and help in immediate surroundings, join a support group.
There are many that exist on a national and local level. National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) provides a wealth of internet resources, as well as local programs.
There are also government and state agencies propelled by the same mission of helping individuals and educating the public. Some of them offer vocational rehabilitation that targets vulnerable groups such as veterans.
We also want to bring up schools. In recent years, they are taking decisive steps to deal with bullying and discrimination, the means of stigmatizing. As a parent, you might be able to find plans and programs tailored to your children too.
Lastly, consider raising your voice publically against stigma. Writing a blog post or speaking up in the community is an empowering and liberating act. It enables others to gain a deeper understanding of mental trials and tribulations you or your loved ones face.
As we’ve indicated earlier, much of the stigma stems from a place of misinformation. In the presence of true information and ears willing to listen, it can vanish into thin air.
Small victories can make a huge difference in the long-term.
The Mental Illness Stigma Rings Hollow
Mental illness stigma is a stain that doesn’t wash away easily.
That said, there are always ways to improve your situation. Above all else, avoid isolating yourself and fostering the self-destructing mindset. Learn about your problem and reach out to people you trust, professionals, and support groups.
Choose empowerment, not shame, disgrace, and resentment. Recognize stigma for what it is— a product of prejudice and falsehood. Go step-by-step and chip away at the monster holding you in its grip.
You’ll gradually build self-esteem and start judging yourself less.
Check out other articles in our health & fitness section. Arm yourself with knowledge!