Surviving Mental Health Stigma Through the Holidays

December 24, 2015 Laura A. Barton

The holidays can be a time of mental health stigma. The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year; the sparkle of tinsel and coloured lights, the cheery tunes on the radio, gift giving, and time with friends and family all contribute to the festive air. What a lot of people don’t realize is all that festivity can become a time of struggle for those with mental health issues (Your Mental Health and the Holiday Season). Those with mental illness may have to survive mental health stigma through the holidays.

How the Holidays Affect Mental Health and Mental Health Stigma

Tips for dealing with potential mental health stigma faced throughout the holiday season.Personally speaking, the holidays can oscillate very quickly between exciting and overwhelming. I love the aesthetic and idea of Christmas — the time spent with loved ones mostly, the lights and décor a lot, the music on occasion — but at times it gets to be too much and I feel like I need to sleep for a week.

For others still, the holidays can be lonely, or upsetting, or whatever other emotion (Holiday Season Isolation and How To Deal With It) might come up. It might be because there’s no one to spend time with or, on the contrary, those there are to spend time with might not be the best or the best at understanding our situations. It’s a time of year for gathering and seeing how everyone is doing and, on top of that, everyone is supposed to be happy. When that’s not the case, especially because of mental health struggles, some issues could come about, such as mental health stigma and judgement.

Tips to Get Through the Holidays and Survive Mental Health Stigma

  1. Understand judgment comes from ignorance and mental health stigma. If someone says your mental illness is making you a downer or ruining the occasion, believe me when I tell you those people are wrong (What Not To Say To Someone With A Mental Illness). Sometimes people just don’t understand mental health issues and rather than being supportive, they lash out, which is definitely not fair or right of them, but you have to realize it’s not your fault. If you need to, say you are uncomfortable with what was said, and, if all else fails, step away from the situation. You do not need to put up with that.
  2. Let those around you know your needs. Telling people what they can do to help can often alleviate some of the frustration of dealing with mental illness for both you and the other person. It might also help people understand that you’re not trying to be difficult, which, in turn, could help shed away some of the stigma you might face. Let someone you’re comfortable with know you might need their help, and maybe even tell them about a signal they could look out for if you need some help with something. (Are You Afraid to Ask for Mental Health Help?)
  3. Know it’s okay not to be okay. “Holiday cheer” seems to demand we be all smiles and twinkling eyes, but, as we know, sometimes that is just not the case. The thing that no one seems to want to acknowledge is that’s being not okay is perfectly all right, too. If you’re struggling, reach out to people you trust or use whatever resources you can such as helplines or chats. If you’re in immediate crisis, call emergency services.

You can find Laura on Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Facebook and her blog; also see her book, Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars.

Photo by Laura Barton.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2015, December 24). Surviving Mental Health Stigma Through the Holidays, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Ontario, Canada. Follow her writing journey and book love on Instagram, and Goodreads.

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