What Role Does Self-Stigma Play in Mental Health Stigma?
Mental health stigma! It’s everywhere, in everyone, all the time…or so it seems. When you are living with a mental health challenge, one of the hardest parts is how it makes you feel about yourself. Often the negative self-talk that’s happening in our minds is the most challenging and debilitating part.
If you are thinking and feeling that way about yourself it’s pretty easy to assume everyone else is thinking that way about you. If you don’t understand what you’re struggling with, how on earth can anyone else understand, right? If you can’t explain what your thinking or why you’re thinking it, how can you be expected to explain it to someone else?
Basically, if you can’t help yourself, if you can’t understand, how will anyone else. At least that’s what it feels like.
But, what if all of the mental health stigma we perceive in others is another one of the many symptoms of mental wellness issues? What if the way we feel about ourselves is making us assume that others feel that same way about us? What if….what if we are all struggling with something and all assume that everyone else is great and that no one else will understand? When really, we can ALL understand, empathize and help each other?
Great thought right? Likely it makes sense and it would be great if we all started talking about it. But this isn’t one of those “let’s all talk about it” messages. This is a “stigma sucks and we need to address the root cause” talk. Telling someone who is struggling with self-stigma to talk about it doesn’t work. It likely has the opposite effect. When we hear “talk about it” we likely think, “easy for you to say, you clearly don’t understand”.
What if we could address the root cause of mental health stigma – self-stigma? What if we could combat the negative self talk, break down the self-stigma and make it easier to feel better about OURSELVES first?
We believe that self-stigma is the root cause of stigma. So, we have identified the problem, not the solution. Good news though, the solution is pretty easy. It also happens to have a pretty amazing impact on others. But don’t worry, they won’t even know you are doing something because it’s for you.
Did you know that volunteering has AMAZING health benefits? When you do something for other people there is physiological reaction in the brain. All the same chemicals associated with happiness – seratonin, endorphins, dopamine – are released when we help others. Volunteering also creates long term improvement in emotional and mental wellness.
When you volunteer, you get to help yourself, while helping others. All of these amaizing benefits dramatically improve how you feel about yourself. When we start to understand that our mental wellness does not define us, but is a part of our overall wellness, we also understand that EVERYONE STRUGGLES. Everyone struggles and everyone understands.
When we improve our own mental wellness and self-image, we destroy self-stigma. Eliminate the self-stigma and the rest of the mental health stigma starts to fade away. So, don’t feel like you need to talk about your mental health if you don’t want. Go do something for someone else. Go volunteer, or start with a random act of kindness. Start to understand yourself, help yourself by helping others, and start to destroy any self-stigma you may have.
Do these things, and watch your outward stigma, the stigma projected on others start to disappear.