Mental Health and Stigma

If you have a mental health problem, you may worry about what other people will think of you. In many cases, no one can even tell if you struggle with symptoms. But sometimes the fear that someone can tell is enough to cause concern. Mental health problems can include bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia.

People sometimes have negative views about things they don’t understand, like mental health problems. Some people may believe things about mental health problems that aren’t true. Other people may have good intentions but still feel uncomfortable when they find out you have a mental health problem. This can make people treat you and your family differently. This is called stigma—when you feel judged by others because you have a personal condition. Stigma happens when others:

• Don’t understand the mental health problem and act in a negative way.
• Don’t realize that a mental health problem is an illness that can be treated.
• Think that a mental health problem is “your own fault” or that you can “get over it.”
• Are afraid they might someday have a mental health problem themselves.

You may feel shame or guilt about having a mental health problem. You may not want your friends to know. This is called “self-stigma,” and it can keep you from getting treatment.

Breaking the Stigma
Respecting yourself is an important part of your recovery. Try to remember that there’s nothing to feel ashamed of. You can reach goals that are important to you even if you have a mental health problem.

Your attitude and actions can influence what others think. Be honest with people, and show them who you really are. When you help people understand your mental health problem, they are more likely to get past their negative views. Get family members and people that you trust to help you reach your goals.

Remember, you have a say in how others see you. Treat people the way you want to be treated.