The definition of ‘stigma’ is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person so it’s no question as to why this definition is often used when talking about people with mental health issues. Social stigma is often the most associated with mental illness as it has to do with discriminating against a person or type of people. Many studies have been done to suggest that this social stigma is a result of three (false) beliefs: people with mental health issues are dangerous, mental health issues are self- induced, and people with mental health issues are hard to talk to. The difficulty with a stigma is that it’s an overgeneralization and we all know that whenever you try to generalize an entier group of people, it’s inaccurate. Most of us either know a loved one that struggles with mental illness or have struggled ourselves, so we need to keep working to fight these false beliefs and social stigmas in order to give each person an opportunity to break out of their chains and become the person they want to be.
So, what can we do about this?
- We need to first TALK about it, share about vulnerabilities, process our mental health struggles, be open about our counseling, medication, and treatment options with those we feel safe with. It doesn’t make us weak to share that we are working to be the best version of yourself.
- Get involved in an organization that is actively working to fight against this stigma. NAMI is a good place to start.
Remember, we all have our struggles and the more secretive we are, the more shameful we become. Be honest and open, ask questions, and educate those around you about the truths of mental health in our community.