Often, the stigma you experience because of your mental illness can seem as bad, if not worse, than the symptoms of your mental illness. Here are some strategies for dealing with stigma:
- Reach out to friends, family and co-workers. This might be difficult to do at first, as it may seem like removing yourself from situations where you believe stigma will occur will make you feel better. However, your social support is extremely valuable to you right now.
- Educate yourself on the facts of your mental illness so you are able to accurately answer questions.
- Educate your family and friends about your disorder, as they may believe some of the myths and misconceptions regarding mental illness as well.
- Remember, you are NOT your illness. Remind yourself that you are not defined by your illness, no matter what anyone may think, say, or feel. Only you can define who you are and what you are capable of achieving. Your uniqueness is something that provides you with a novel perspective on things.
- Distance yourself. Do not allow your sense of worth to become attached to anyone else’s fears or labels. Don’t stress if you are not able to change everyone’s ideas about mental illness.
- Walk away if you need to. If the situation persists and creates increasing stress for you, you can walk away. You are not defined by other people’s fears.
- Protest stigma perpetuated in local media, commercials and movies.
- Model respect to those around you. Your friends, children and peers learn from you. Make sure you have a positive and tolerant attitude about mental illness. Talk openly about the facts others and keep the lines of communication open.
- Attend a support group. Many people find it rewarding to be around people who have been through similar experiences and can offer support and suggestions.