False beliefs about mental illness can cause significant problems.
STIGMA is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a personal trait that is a disadvantage. Negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have mental health conditions, are common.
STIGMA can lead to discrimination and that same discrimination may be obvious and direct, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or the treatment you are receiving. It may be unintentional or subtle, such as someone avoiding you because the person assumes you could be unstable, violent or even dangerous due to your mental health condition.
The harmful effects of STIGMA can include:
A reluctance to seek treatment.
A lack of understanding by family, friends and co-workers.
Far less opportunities for work or social activities or trouble finding a place to stay.
Bullying, physical violence or harassment.
Health insurance that does not adequately cover the treatment costs for your mental illness.
The belief that you’ll never be able to succeed at certain challenges, or, that you will not be able to improve your condition.
BUT, THERE ARE WAYS OF COPING WITH THE STIGMA.
Get treatment. Try not to let STIGMA create self-doubt and shame. STIGMA does not only come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness and that you should be able to control it without help. But, seeking psychological counseling and connecting with others with a mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.
It is not a good idea to isolate yourself as family and friends can offer you the support you need. So reach out to people you trust.
Please don’t equate yourself with your illness. YOU ARE NOT AN ILLNESS. Instead of saying ‘I’m bipolar’- say, ‘I have bipolar disorder.” Instead of calling yourself ‘a schizophrenic,’ say ‘I have schizophrenia.’
Joining a support group can only be helpful as you will come in contact with others in the same position as you find yourself and one another’s input is very comforting.
Speaking out against stigma is the surest way to get your message across. You can express your opinion at events, in letters to the editor of your local paper or on the internet. It might instill courage in others facing similar challenges and at the same time it will help educate the public about mental illness. The negative judgments of others usually stem from a lack of understanding.