When Debra Yergen switched jobs, she got the cold shoulder from people she considered close friends.
Yergen had spent three years working at a community hospital in Washington state, but when she started her new position as director of communications for a regional medical center that competed with the hospital, her old work buddies disappeared -- presumably because she left for the competition.
"At first, I thought my friends were just busy," Yergen, now 40, says. "But when the holidays rolled...
People sometimes have negative views about
things they don't understand, such as 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 quality, trait, or condition. Because of stigma, others may look down on you.
Stigma occurs when others:
Don't understand the mental health problem or think it's a
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.
Are nervous around you.
You may feel shame or guilt about having a mental health
problem. You may not want an employer or even your friends to know. This is
called "self-stigma," and it can keep you from getting treatment or finding
Breaking the stigma
Respecting yourself is an
important part of your recovery. Try to remember that there's nothing to feel ashamed of. The problem is with your brain, not with you. You can reach goals that are important to you even if you have a mental
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.
Here are some ways you can help others
better understand mental health problems.
Let them know that your mental health problem is a
medical problem that can be treated.
Talk about your recovery. This
will help them understand the challenges you face.
Show them your
strengths and talents. Don't let your mental health problem keep you from going
after things you want to do.
Remember that "you are the message."
You can show how you want to be treated by the way you act. Treating yourself
with respect can set an example for everyone.
Accept that you may
need breaks during activities. Your symptoms may make it harder to focus on
things for a long time.
Work with your family and doctor to set
goals you can reach. Let them know what changes you want to make in your