If you’re living with mental illness, such as addiction or a co-occurring disorder, you’ve probably experienced people blaming you – either implicitly or outright – for your disease. Unfortunately, there’s still a great deal of stigma around mental health in modern society.
The Burdens of Stigma Around Mental Health
Stigma can be psychologically devastating, another burden at a time when you’re already at a fragile point. When you’re struggling with the symptoms of your disease, even the most well-meaning people may wrongly assume you’d be able to gain greater control of your life, if only you’d try harder.
Stigma around mental health causes sufferers to feel blamed and shamed for circumstances that are beyond their ability to control. Worst of all, the stigma you experienced in the past may have prevented you from seeking the help you need to get your life back on track. When you’re already under so much stress, successfully managing your addiction can seem like an insurmountable hurdle.
How Can You Fight Back Against Stigma?
Though stigma has reduced in recent years, society hasn’t made nearly enough strides to stand up to stigma and make life easier for those who are struggling to break free of their addictive behaviors. Here are some ways you can fight back against the cycle of stigma.
- Talk openly about mental health: Take every opportunity to share your story about what it is like to live with addiction and co-occurring disorders. If you overhear someone making disparaging comments about mental illness, make it a “teachable moment” and explain how it makes you feel, and how damaging negativity can be.
- Make a connection between physical and mental illness: Another way to reduce the stigma around mental health is to explain that addiction and co-occurring disorders are a chronic, but treatable, disease – just like cancer or diabetes.
- Be compassionate among others with mental illness: Understanding the daily struggle of those around you can not only erase stigmas, but can help you become more empathetic.
- Be open about seeking treatment: Most people wouldn’t feel ashamed to say they are going to see their primary care physician, so there’s nothing embarrassing about telling people if you are in therapy.
Seeking Professional Help
If you need help for yourself or a loved one who is living with substance dependency, New Found Life can give you the tools you need to recover. We are a qualified treatment center in Long Beach, CA, that has been using evidence-based approaches to help our clients since 1993. Break through the stigma and contact us today to start on a healthy path.