Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. -John 14:27
Stigma is defined as a negative attitude or perception of another group of people, such as the stigma of mental illness. It can manifest anytime and anywhere, be it our homes, our work places, or out in public spaces. It may seem impossible to stop the stigma.
The stigma of mental illness is compounded by the struggle of accomplishing day-to-day tasks while managing mental illness symptoms. For some, getting out of bed and facing the day can be a challenge.
Problems can arise when people are not understanding of mental illness and believe that it’s used as an excuse for bad behavior. At times all a person really needs is someone to talk to or to be supportive. However, this is not always the case and people do get marginalized.
There is still a great deal of stigma surrounding mental illness, and we all play a part in stopping the stigma. Even someone who believes themselves to be open may find it difficult when faced with someone looking for understanding. So what can one do to stop the stigma?
First and foremost, it’s important to be able to discuss your illness with others. Having the courage to say “I suffer from anxiety/depression/PTSD/ect.” is a great first step. Converse about your illness with people you trust. Make it clear that this isn’t something you are doing for attention.
Here are 9 more ways to stop the stigma, courtesy of nami.org:
Talk Openly About Mental Health
“I fight stigma by talking about what it is like to have bipolar disorder and PTSD on Facebook. Even if this helps just one person, it is worth it for me.” – Angela Christie Roach Taylor
Educate Yourself And Others
“I take every opportunity to educate people and share my personal story and struggles with mental illness. It doesn’t matter where I am, if I over-hear a conversation or a rude remark being made about mental illness, or anything regarding a similar subject, I always try to use that as a learning opportunity and gently intervene and kindly express how this makes me feel, and how we need to stop this because it only adds to the stigma.” – Sara Bean
Be Conscious Of Language
“I fight stigma by reminding people that their language matters. It is so easy to refrain from using mental health conditions as adjectives and in my experience, most people are willing to replace their usage of it with something else if I explain why their language is problematic.” – Helmi Henkin
Encourage Equality Between Physical And Mental Illness
“I find that when people understand the true facts of what a mental illness is, being a disease, they think twice about making comments. I also remind them that they wouldn’t make fun of someone with diabetes, heart disease or cancer.” – Megan Dotson
Show Compassion For Those With Mental Illness
“I offer free hugs to people living outdoors, and sit right there and talk with them about their lives. I do this in public, and model compassion for others. Since so many of our homeless population are also struggling with mental illness, the simple act of showing affection can make their day but also remind passersby of something so easily forgotten: the humanity of those who are suffering.” – Rachel Wagner
Choose Empowerment Over Shame
“I fight stigma by choosing to live an empowered life. To me, that means owning my life and my story and refusing to allow others to dictate how I view myself or how I feel about myself.” – Val Fletcher
Be Honest About Treatment
“I fight stigma by saying that I see a therapist and a psychiatrist. Why can people say they have an appointment with their primary care doctor without fear of being judged, but this lack of fear does not apply when it comes to mental health professionals?” – Ysabel Garcia
Let The Media Know When They’re Being Stigmatizing
“If I watch a program on TV that has any negative comments, story lines or characters with a mental illness, I write to the broadcasting company and to the program itself. If Facebook has any stories where people make ignorant comments about mental health, then I write back and fill them in on my son’s journey with schizoaffective disorder.” – Kathy Smith
Don’t Harbor Self-Stigma
“I fight stigma by not having stigma for myself—not hiding from this world in shame, but being a productive member of society. I volunteer at church, have friends, and I’m a peer mentor and a mom. I take my treatment seriously. I’m purpose driven and want to show others they can live a meaningful life even while battling [mental illness].” – Jamie Brown
In closing, dear reader, please remember that no matter what, you are a beloved child of God and that your illness does not define you. Please visit www.thebeholdproject.com/resources for additional resources and www.biblegateway.com for quoted Bible verses. God Bless!