Coping with the Stigma of Mental Illness
Unfortunately, today many people stigmatize those seeking help for mental illness and often view people with mental illness with inaccurate stereotypes. Think of all the times you've seen movies or the media portray people with mental illness as dangerous, unpredictable, weak in times of stress, and non-treatable. What makes it worse is that because of this discrimination, people who experience mental illness are more likely to internalize these stigmas and believe these things about themselves (Quinn, Williams, & Weisz, 2015).
Below is a list of ways to help yourself cope with the stigma of mental illness or help your loved ones cope with the stigma of mental illness.
REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE. At times, experiencing a mental illness (whether depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.) can be very alienating. However, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 1 in 5 Americans, or 18.5% of the population, experiences mental illness within any given year. Chances are you or someone you know may be experiencing some form of mental health issue and is important to be as supportive as possible during this time.
BE NONJUDGMENTAL. One of the many reasons people may hide their mental illness is the fear of being judged. If a person you love chooses to let you know he or she is experiencing mental illness, you can show your support by listening, validating his or her experience, and asking what ways he or she would like you to help or show your support. Also remember using labels can be unhelpful due to their associated negative stereotypes.
GET TREATMENT. Often the stigmatization of mental illness can result in people not receiving the care that they need. NAMI reports that only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received services within the past year. Remember that treatment has scientifically proven to be effective in the treatment of mental illness. This includes both medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Ask your provider about treatment options available in your area.
SEEK SOCIAL SUPPORT. Whether you seek out support from your loved ones or you seek out support groups in which you can speak to others experiencing similar mental illness or situations, know that social support can be very helpful. Support groups can be helpful because they are nonjudgmental in nature and can reduce feelings of isolation often associated with mental illness.
These are just a few steps you can begin to take to cope with the stigma of mental illness. It is important to spread as much information as possible about this issue. Check back in the future for additional strategies on coping with stigma.