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Surviving Mental Health Stigma Is a Literal Act of Survival

December 6, 2021 Laura A. Barton

Content warning: This blog contains a discussion of suicide and suicidal ideation.

Surviving Mental Health Stigma Blog — that’s the name of this blog full of tips and advice to get through moments of stigma, overcome it, and so on. Often, that’s how I approach writing for this blog: what tips can I share? What have I gone through that might be useful to others? But then it struck me. Dealing with mental health stigma can quite literally be an act of survival. It’s not hyperbole. It’s not dramatics. Mental health stigma could literally lead to someone dying. I’ll elaborate.

What Does It Mean to Have to Literally Survive Mental Health Stigma?

We all know how stigma can prevent people from speaking up, prevent them from getting help, and prevent them from getting better. When mental health conditions are untreated, it can lead to risk-taking behavior. That, of course, could potentially lead to death.

For me, it’s a matter of stigma fueling thoughts of suicide. That’s right, it’s not just thoughts of suicide that I contend with, but mental health stigma coming in to give those thoughts a boost.

One way that stigma sticks with me is by becoming internalized. Every time I’ve ever been told that I’m a downer or buzzkill has sunk in, and when I’m feeling the grips of depression and treading into suicidal territory, they’re usually along for the ride. Instead of arguing against the darkness, my thoughts turn to those comments and lead to considerations about how it’d be better if I weren’t here because I’m just so negative. Why should I stick around when I’m bringing others down?

And thus, in those moments, surviving the stigma literally becomes a survival effort. It’s not just about tolerating the stigma or hardening myself against it. It becomes a matter of not giving in to those thoughts and staying afloat long enough until they quiet down again.

Mental Health Stigma Doesn’t Just Hurt Superficially

I don’t think people realize that mental health stigma truly impacts people in this way. More likely, people see stigma as just hurting someone’s feelings in a superficial way or as someone unable to handle the “facts” (also known as their hurtful and unhelpful words, perceptions, or opinions).

Even with what I wrote above, I imagine people will brush it off as “not their problem” or me just being too sensitive. Maybe some will learn from stories like mine.

If you’re in the same position as me, feeling like dealing with mental health stigma means having to survive it, I get it. I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with you, fighting it on a regular basis. Let’s keep striving to survive together, okay?

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2021, December 6). Surviving Mental Health Stigma Is a Literal Act of Survival, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2021/12/surviving-mental-health-stigma-is-a-literal-act-of-survival



Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Ontario, Canada. Find her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.

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