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Coping With the Stigma of Mental Illness

An estimated 25% of American adults and nearly 10% of children suffer from a mental illness Nonetheless, there is often a stigma attached to mental illness, and often inaccurate portrayals of mental illness in the media.

People with mental illness and their families can take certain steps to help cope with the stigma:

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  • Remembering that you and your loved ones have choices: You can decide whom to tell about the mental illness -- just as you can with any other personal or private information -- and what to tell them.
  • Remembering that you are not alone: Many other people cope with similar situations. People commonly struggle with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental illnesses.
  • Keeping hope and remembering that treatment works: Safe and effective medications and psychotherapeutic treatments are available, and newer treatments are being developed. As a result, many individuals with mental illness enjoy productive lives.
  • Praising your loved one for seeking help: Mental health treatment can be difficult, as people often need to be patient in trying new medications, coping with side effects, and learning new behaviors. Helping your loved one to feel good about him or herself is important.
  • Remaining active and surrounding yourself with supportive people: Social isolation can be a negative side effect of the stigma linked to mental illness. Isolation and ceasing to participate in activities you or your loved one enjoys put you at high risk for depression and burnout. Take a risk and try new activities in your community. You may want to investigate the local chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) or a volunteer organization.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 08, 2014

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