Stigma, as a noun (feeling), is defined as "a strong feeling of disapproval that most people in society have about something."(1) Imagine being a person who feels stigmatised? Unfortunately, for many people, having mental health difficulties and seeking support for this makes them feel stigmatised. They are worried about judgement - what other people, or society, think of them. Pretty awful right? Lets really take an educated look at stigma then.......
Is it a fair comment that people who don't understand, are ignorant and ill-informed and/or frightened of mental health illness, or difficulties, "go with the flow" and follow societal "norms" and thinking surrounding the area? Some individuals could just have a negative belief about it right..... similar to..... "It simply does not exist" - like depression or anxiety.
Unfortunately, stigma can lead individuals to be discriminated against and treated unfairly or inappropriately, feel guilty, ashamed and isolated. Most importantly, it also means that many people are too frightened to seek the support they need leading to poorer mental, and perhaps, physical outcomes.
Just like your physical body that you have to look after and maintain, you have a brain and mind that needs looking after and maintenance. Just because you can't see it, does not mean that it does not exist. Science tells us that our brains an minds are responsible for being alive - does not make sense to ignore it then it.
With all of this ignorance around the topic of mental health then, how can we deal with it?
** You are NOT your illness or a walking illness - having a broken arm does not mean that you are a "brokenarmlitic" or that you introduce yourself as "Hi, I am broken arm". You are so much more than this.
** Don't take somebody else's ignorance personally - that's their problem so leave it for them.
** Know the facts - mental illness is COMMON. It is NOT a sign of weakness. Why not turn it around and inform people of their ignorance?
** It's nobody's business. Choose who you WANT to discuss it with.
** Be proud of who you are and have strength. Are you "weak" for having a broken arm or the flu?
** Stay away from toxic, soul draining, nasty and unintelligent people - seriously - they don't deserve to know you. Why bother?
** Find an awesome therapist who you feel safe and comfortable. Look for somebody else if you don't feel good - it's your money and health!
** Remember, you are the important one here - not other's ignorance or misguided opinion.