Have these statements ever been said to anyone of us? We are crazy, we are stupid, or stop acting like a mental patient. Perhaps, we are told to, just get over it. My notion is that at least one of them have been heard by most of us. However, each person reacts to this quite uniquely. Some laugh this off and think it is funny. Others take these comments as an insult and keep them inside for future use.
For many years, people with mental health issues have experienced some form of stigma and discrimination. When mentioned often enough, the individuals begin to believe that we are what we said. Often this is called public stigma as it represents the stigma, prejudice, and discrimination to a specific group such as those who suffer from mental illness.
What happens when we use these negative phrases on ourselves? A couple of examples: ‘I am stupid,’ or ‘I am behaving like a loony’. Real confidence or self-esteem cannot be very high. Overall, these words are hurtful which can lead to other issues. Many times this is referred to as self-stigma. As a mental health peer specialist, I feel that self-stigma is much worse for people that have mental health issues because it is what we call or label ourselves.
Self-stigma occurs when we internalise public opinions and attitudes while suffering mentally from a variety of maladies. Stereotypes are the way we collect information about others out there. Like the current COVID-19 pandemic, self-stigma and its consequences can and do lead to negative feelings and emotions which many times turns into mental health issues and or social isolation.
Additionally, from these bad feelings, people from the public, stay away from someone with mental illness because of fear self-stigma and or belief discrimination that anyone with these issues are dangerous. What an absolutely horrible way to live. Furthermore, self-stigma for me was a distorted belief of how people conceived I was. One way was that I was less than others, just because I had a mental illness diagnosis.
These people continually discussed me and my given diagnosis, behind my back. Also, individuals saw that I had many types of behaviour differences so a lot of avoidance occurred. No, my diagnosis was never paranoia. Regardless of what was said or perceived, the more relevant and significant notion here was, that self-stigma caused a major impact on my self-esteem and my anxiety in the mind of others. Yes, it still influences me sometimes now.
Stigma, along with discrimination, is especially significant to self-stigma and more and more are now thought of as a front for treating many forms of mental wellness disorders. This overall effect of self-stigma is to help-seeking individuals for anyone, not only to folks that deal with any of the vast assortment of mental health issues.
Howard Diamond is a certified peer specialist in New York.