Mental illness: no more stigma

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There’s something in the air. Maybe you can’t feel it, but it’s there. There is a movement coming up. A movement where the taboo surrounding mental health is partially gone. Perhaps it’s possible to live in a world in which we can talk about our mental health, without being judged. But first a few steps need to be made. It all starts with ourselves: removing our own stigma.

Stig-what?

To remove stigma, it is important to know what stigma is. ‘Stigma is defined as a sign of disgrace or discredit, which sets a person apart from others (Byrne, 2000).’  People who are struggling with mental illness, for instance, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and so on can experience stigma in several ways (see figure 1).

But stigma comes in different levels and one of those is self stigma. This happens to people who start to accept the stigma that society put on mental health issues. People will truly believe they are dangerous, develop prejudices and might even start self-discriminating (Corrigan & Rao, 2016).                                          

Stages & resolving

Self-stigma comes in several steps:

  1. There is awareness about the stigma surrounding mental health;
  2. Eventually the person struggling will agree with those stigma;
  3. Soon it will be applied to the own situation;
  4. Harm will come to the person, by believing he or she is incapable. (Corrigan & Rao, 2016).

It might seem really hard to reduce and resolve the stigma surrounding mental health, especially if struggling yourself, but it is possible. It just takes time.

At first it might seem like saying nothing and avoid people might be the best. However this is not true. The first step to solving this, is to go out, But not mention it yet to other people, but this will avoid isolation and exclusion. Later on, it might feel comfortable to tell other people about your illness, but only close friends or relatives. Your surrounding can be understanding that you are afraid and will most definitely support you. The second-last step is to stop concealing it to the world, so you can end of with broadcasting: let people know and be proud of who you are (Corrigan & Rao, 2016).  

We are making great progress already, look at celebrities opening up about their own struggles, such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders.. But there is yet a lot to of ground to be gained. The first step to make this world a more open minded place, is to let those who are struggling, open up without feeling stigmatized by society. That includes self-stigma too. As I have struggled with depression myself, I know how hard it is to open up. On the other hand I know it is totally worth opening up. By starting a blog about my journey and recovery, I was able to destigmatize, even though it was only in a small scaled. So…

Let’s open up.

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