Although mental health stigma and its impacts are often compartmentalized into specific moments or situations, the fear of mental health stigma has an impact on day-to-day life. It affects the way we carry ourselves and the way we navigate our days, and recognizing this can help garner a better understanding of stigma's impact.
Impact of Stigma
There are lasting effects of mental health stigma that go beyond shame, silence, and the way we navigate the world. When thinking of stigma and its impacts, those are often the things that come up, but there are other lasting effects of mental health stigma as well, such as how we interact with people.
What does life look like beyond mental health stigma? I get this sense that we only see mental health stigma as this negative cloud hanging over living with mental illness, and then beyond that, it's all sunshine. We look toward that perceived sunshine with eagerness, but what I've discovered is it might not only be sunshine waiting for us.
A misconception bred by mental health stigma is your mental illness is your entire identity. It can even go as far as suggesting there is no separating you from it. While mental illness and mental health struggles are a part of who we are, they don't completely make up our identity.
Letting others know you have a mental illness can feel like a confession because of stigma. Telling someone about the illness for the first time can be a large, daunting task because of this feeling that you're revealing a deep, dark secret. This is because stigma tells us that reactions to mental health struggles will always be negative.
While practicing gratitude can be a great way to encourage positivity during a mental health struggle, it can also play a role in mental health stigma. It may not seem like it, but there are ways gratitude can negatively impact someone who is struggling with a mental health condition.
Is it mental health stigma? This is a great question to ask ourselves as not everything we encounter is. When we have mental health issues, we can be hypersensitive to any sort of situation that seems to involve our mental health or mental health in general. With this can come the sense that many things are a manifestation of stigma. It's important to recognize, however, that no everything is mental health stigma, even if what we're facing is negative.
When we're combatting mental health stigma, it's important to be as inclusive as possible. One of the ways we fight stigma is to talk about or try to convey the idea that our experiences don't have to fit in a box and that there isn't any shame in not having everything together, in being "messy." But does this saturation of messages mean it's not okay to be, for lack of a better word, "neat?"
The stigma surrounding drug addiction can be just as pervasive as drug addiction itself. It's important to realize that spreading drug addiction stigma doesn't address the overall issue of drug addiction or to people recovering from the illness.
Mental health stigma centers a lot around silent struggle. Often we think about it in terms of stigma leading to shame and people being silent in their struggles. But to further complicate it, mental health stigma also tells us there's pride to be found in silent struggle.