The Mental Health Stigma

The Mental Health Stigma

            When experiencing psychosis; trusting people is not easy.  There is often a sense that people are out to get you and the fear of betrayal is ever present.  With those people possessing psychosis, it is very difficult to talk about the illness, because of the fear of being judged and the negative mental health stigma.  A stigma is a stereotype, this stereotype often says people with depression are weak, and those with schizophrenia are violent.  With this stigma, those that are uneducated about mental diseases may respond hurtfully to those that suffer.  This may take a toll on the sufferer especially because they had to struggle to work up the courage to talk about their mental health.

When I first became ill and talked about it with others, some of the people that I thought were closest to me deserted me.  Some ignored my attempts at conversation, while others told their friends that they feared that I would snap and have a violent outrage.  They really thought I would commit a shooting.  I went to them for support and they abandoned me. Public opinion and the media often link mental illness with violence.  But the truth is that violence is not a symptom of psychosis.

This made me feel like I was the problem.  It made me feel like I did something wrong with my life; whether it be by not taking good enough care of myself or by committing to too many stressors.

I felt like I had to hide the illness from others, this was difficult because it engulfed me. I hid in book stores when reading self-help books.  I hated picking up my medicine from the pharmacy, or telling doctors my medical history.  I was too scared that these people would judge me.

All of these examples are unfortunate, but all too common of a case.  The education on this topic is too shallow, while the levels of disregard are too high.

This negative stigma may not always be from an outside source.  Many times people with psychosis believe that they will never be able to succeed in life or that they may never improve.

Going through this, I had heard that this was an illness that did not fade or improve.  I had heard that people like me “would never live independently, hold a job, find a loving partner, [or] get married. My home would be a board-and-care facility, my days spent watching TV in a day room with other people debilitated by mental illness.”  I felt like I could no longer do many of the meaningful tasks in life.  People have told me that I could not achieve my dreams while being psychotic.  I was crushed.  I had trouble finding a point to life with this serious prognosis.

But even with all of this, there are several coping mechanisms that have helped me get through the stigma:

  1. Do not blame yourself

Many mental illnesses are based not on what an individual has done wrong, but   upon a chemical imbalance.

2. Try not to take it personally

People make stupid remarks, and this should not be your problem.  It should be    their own problem, and these comments are often based on a lack of education.      You can help by telling your own story.  With being informed they should be able       to make more accurate and understanding comments.

3. Do not think of having a mental illness as being a mental illness.

Do not think “I am depressed”, “I am bipolar”, or “I am schizophrenic”.  The illness is not you and             does not define you.  Instead think “I have depression”, “I have bipolar      disorder”, or “I have schizophrenia”.  When you “have” something it can be taken away, lessened, or controlled (which is the goal with mental illness); while          being something cannot be taken away because it embodies you.

4. You are not alone in this illness.  Get into a support group.

Always remember that you are not alone.  Get support from people that go          through similar problems, they will be understanding since they are going through the same things.

There are successful people with psychosis, so you don’t have to live the negative mental stigma.  Life is not hopeless.  Others have gotten through it with much success; if they can get through it, you can too.

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