Tag Archives: no more stigma

Living with mental illness in a more positive manner

3 in a band #2Trying to lessen the stigma associated with mental illness requires a change of societal views through education and increased awareness. When we talk about people by naming their illness first, as in he is a mentally ill person, we actually dehumanize that individual and reinforce the stigma.

So, what should a person with a mental illness do? What can they do? How should they behave?

Well, they can try to walk away from all the situations that upset them and try to ignore all that is bad for them.

They can learn to fill their lives with something creative, constructive and positive.

If they are sufficiently brave, they can learn how to share information with others that they feel they can trust. But this is very difficult to do.

They can work very hard at forming happy, rewarding, symbiotic relationships, either people in the same position as they are which is easier, or in another circle.

They can try to find hobbies that will bring them joy and an interest in life once again. I know someone who starting playing a musical instrument and eventually met other musicians with whom he formed a close relationship. He also provided himself with a time-consuming hobby that helped him pass the long hours after work. He was only able to concentrate on his work for four hours at a time so his days stretched endlessly until he discovered music. From that day one, his life changed for the better.

But it is not easy to learn how to cope with each new hurt and loss. Not everybody is caring and tactful, but there are surprises en route. One of the most difficult things to cope in today’s world is to be different. No matter what that difference is and no matter how large or small it may be. People in general are either uncomfortable or afraid to be with someone who does not fit into society easily.

It isn’t easy for for anyone to cope with old memories that are continually being raked up by family and friends but this is something else that they have to accomplish.

They have to learn how to adapt, evolve and find peace within themselves.

They need to find laughter and remember how to enjoy themselves once again, slowly at first, step by step.

They have to learn how to think positively and try to erase all thoughts of desperation and of harming themselves. One can live on various levels and although they might not manage to live the way they did before the diagnosis of mental illness was dropped on them, they can live balanced, happy  lives once again.

Their families have to give them all the support that they can. This is not easy. My family noticed that many husbands leave home, finding mental illness too hard to bear. These men left their wives and childdren with an unfair burden. Marriage vows state, In sickness and in health, so this applies not only to one’s attitude towards a spouse, but to a sick child too. These young people have more than enough to put up with so the last thing they need is a splintered family.

Are they entitled to the same health care?

Are they entitled to the same health care?

Too many people with mental illnesses have told me that they feel less entitled to health care than people suffering with diabetes, asthma or cancer, simply because the origin of their illness is in their brains. Insurance companies have been known to refuse to cover people with a mental illness at the same level as those with a physical illness.

I sincerely  hope that the next chapter in our civil rights movement will be to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.

Why I tell my story

end mental health discriminatiion

Someone asked me why I tell my story. That person also asked why I don’t give more information from the medical point of view. My reply, “I am neither a doctor, nor a psychiatrist so any information I give can only be presented from a mother’s point of view. There is no straight answer as life is neither black nor white.

  • I tell my story in the hope that others might understand.
  • I tell my story to make it more difficult for people to close their eyes and their hearts to all the mental illness around them.
  • I tell my story to gain empathy for all those people out there who are suffering from one kind of mental illness or another and to show them that they are not alone.
  • I tell my story to try and convince people suffering from a mental illness that with the correct treatment, their condition can be improved.
  • I tell my story to gain support for them. If they have the backing of their community and family, they have the chance of a life with a purpose surrounded by love.
  • If we all tell our stories, maybe some of the people out there will listen, believe, and even act on our behalf.
  • No politician truly believes that he/she will gain extra votes by devoting more time to the issue of mental illness, but maybe … that time is now.
  • I tell my story: the story of one family, but it is also the story of millions of families living with a mentally ill relative anywhere from Africa to Alaska.
  • I tell my story in the hope that one day, there will be no stigma associated with mental illness.

stop the stigma



i just wanted to be wanted


Stigma is defined as a sign of disgrace or discredit which sets a person apart from others. The stigma of mental illness remains a powerful negative attribute in all social relationships.

Stigma is a marker for adverse experiences, among them, a sense of shame, and is still perceived as a sign of weakness.

What my husband and I learned from our ill son was:

Stigma means not having access to resources.

Stigma means being reviled and becoming invisible.

Stigma brings with it intense shame, resulting in a feeling of

             decreased self-worth.

Stigma  is connected to secrecy.

Stigma causes anger which results in keeping one’s distance.

Stigma brings hopelessness, resulting in helplessness, and no

    Noone can live without hope.

 A civilization should be judged by the way it treats its mentally ill and its senior citizens.


No, he was not cured.

The first time my son was released from a psychiatric hospital after a psychotic attack, a nurse handed him a packet of pills reminding him how important it was to keep taking them even when he felt a bit better. She also told him that he needed to return to the hospital for a check up in a month’s time.

He was 24 years old at the time and had spent many months in that hospital. He’d been in the closed ward for all that time too. As we walked out into the sunshine, I wondered whether he was cured.

During the drive home, I sat next to my husband while David sat behind his Dad, staring obsessively at the people in the cars next to ours whenever we stopped at a red light, saying; “They’re making signs at me.” As we reached home he said; “When I went into the hospital, I didn’t feel well. Today, I feel really ill.”

Our world rotated. No, my son was not cured. I knew that if I wanted some quality of life, I’d have to learn that life was not about waiting for the storm to pass, but about learning to dance in the rain. My husband and I drank coffee in silence then I turned to  him, “Now what?” He hugged me impulsively and said; “We’ll think of something. We always do.”

Yes, I suffer from OCD

“I was an adult with a serious problem that was ruining my life.  I visited a psychiatrist who had been recommended to me. An hour into my introductory session the doctor looked directly at me and said; “You have OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.” I was already in tears, which continued to flow for hours. Those tears had been a long time coming.”

“The psychiatrist explained that I could try medication, behavioral therapy, or a combination of both. I was still in a state of denial so I bought the medication and continued my life as if nothing were the matter. But, the drug did not help me. I was tired of explaining my symptoms to psychiatrists only to have them delve into my family’s history, jot down a few notes and charge me a fortune. What I wanted, was to feel better.”

“So, I enrolled for a behavioral therapy course. I felt strange attending sessions in a psychiatric hospital and dealing with a chronic disease. Only then did it sink in that I was really ill and needed to resign myself to a lifetime of treatment.”

“I was assigned to a nurse who took me through my obsessions and rituals that caused me the most anxiety. Then we worked our way down the list. I realized that I would have to work very hard on the areas I had been avoiding. The nurse told me to bring items that I felt were contaminated. I would also have to rent a car and learn to stop turning around compulsively to check whether I’d hit anything. She told me to go into the hospital kitchen and turn off the appliances one by one, making sure to check each one only once and not twenty times the way I usually do.”

“The program lasted for seven weeks and I accomplished most of the assignments. The medication must have helped a bit but I think that having the support of the nurse helped more. Being with other OCD patients helped too, as we were able to speak openly about our compulsions and we had a great deal to talk about. This was the first time I realized that other people had the problems that I thought were mine alone.”

“When the program ended, I felt insecure but saw the nurse or one of the psychiatrists from time to time on a private basis. I also attended a support group every two weeks. There are times when I don’t feel the need to take medication but I take it as I cannot bear the thought of relapse. I am determined to manage my illness for the rest of my life. It’s chronic but I am no longer going to let it run my life. After all, it could have been worse.”

I heard this story from a young man who approached me after hearing about the voluntary work I have been doing in the field of mental health.



Stigma Watch

Do you realize that a person with a mental illness puts up with a lot more than their illness? Stigma contributes another major stress which they can well do without. They have told me that stigma and prejudice are as distressing as the symptoms of the illness itself.

Mostly, stigma against people with a mental illness involves inaccurate and hurtful representations of them as being violent, comical or incompetent;  dehumanizing them and making these people an object of fear or ridicule.

When stigma occurs in the media it can be in the form of reports that refer to inaccurate stereotypes, sensationalized issues through unwarranted reference to mental illness, the misuse of medical terminology or the use of demeaning or hostile language.

Stigma in the media is especially harmful because the media plays such an important role in shaping and reinforcing community attitudes.

Some of the  most harmful effects of stigma occur when it alters how people view themselves also known as self-stigma.

Self-stigma is the acceptance of prejudiced perceptions held by others. This can lead to the reluctance to seek treatment, excessive reliance on relatives, social withdrawal, poor self-worth, and it may also lead to the abuse of alcohol and drugs.

While stigma is an opinion or judgment held by individuals or society, if they are acted on, these actions can be considered to be discriminatory.

Discriminating against someone at work, denying access to education, accommodation, entry to certain premises, membership of a club or association, or the provision of services, is unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act.

Taken from an article on the Australian website, SANE.