Having a family member that is suffering a mental health disorder can be taxing at times. Depending on the severity of the disorder, many families have been broken up because of this. Some of them can be blamed on the lack of love or patience a family member can bestow. Some just cannot handle the pressure and others just cannot take the shame.
But if the people around a person with a mental health disorder feels awkward, then what about what the actual person with the disorder feels? Many or most of these people are too afraid or ashamed to share their disorder with other people because they fear being ridiculed or judged.
Even as seeing a psychiatrist or taking mental health disorder medicines are commonplace nowadays, many people still distrust a person with a mental health problem; they feel that they are too unstable and unpredictable. Fearing what they do not know, this ignorance causes more depression and damage to a person with a mental health disorder.
Getting Over the Fear
What mental health disorder patients want is for them to be considered as normal people. Only that they need more compassion, understanding and kindness. Treat a mental health disorder afflicted person the same way as you would anyone, this would make him or her feel more normal.
As they feel more accepted and happy, they increase the chance of becoming normal. Also, be prepared; learn about the disorder that has afflicted your family or friend. Know the symptoms so you can be prepared as well.
For the patient, learn and try to accept your condition, do not be afraid of what people will say, open up your condition to them. If they can’t take it then they’re not worth it. Remember that there are many people with mental health disorder; some are not just as obvious. Hold your head up high and live with dignity.
Steps to cope with stigma (via Mayo Clinic)
Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:
- Get treatment. You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
- Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn’t just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness or that you should be able to control it without help. Seeking counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others who have mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.
- Don’t isolate yourself. If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, clergy or members of your community can offer you support if they know about your mental illness. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support and understanding you need.
- Don’t equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. So instead of saying “I’m bipolar,” say “I have bipolar disorder.” Instead of calling yourself “a schizophrenic,” say “I have schizophrenia.”
- Join a support group. Some local and national groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offer local programs and internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people who have mental illness, their families and the general public. Some state and federal agencies and programs, such as those that focus on vocational rehabilitation and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offer support for people with mental illness.
- Get help at school. If you or your child has a mental illness that affects learning, find out what plans and programs might help. Discrimination against students because of a mental illness is against the law, and educators at primary, secondary and college levels are required to accommodate students as best they can. Talk to teachers, professors or administrators about the best approach and resources. If a teacher doesn’t know about a student’s disability, it can lead to discrimination, barriers to learning and poor grades.
- Speak out against stigma. Consider expressing your opinions at events, in letters to the editor or on the internet. It can help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.