Coping With the Stigma of Mental Illness

The stigma of mental illness still exists, even though society has become more accepting and understanding of mental health issues in recent years.

Families of people with mental illness can take certain steps to help cope with stigma. These steps include:

  • Remembering that you and your loved ones have choices: Mental and physical illnesses are private, personal information. You can decide who to tell about the mental illness and what to tell them.
  • Remembering that you are not alone: Mental health problems can be more common than you might think. One in four people in the United States experiences some form of mental illness at some point in their lives. Many other people cope with similar situations. People commonly struggle with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental health disorders.
  • Keeping hope and remembering that treatment works: Safe and effective medications and psychosocial 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 discontinuing enjoyable activities 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 for the Mentally Ill) or a volunteer organization.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on April 18, 2017
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