Greetings everyone, this is Priya from Inner Health and it’s the week before the Thanksgiving holidays. For me Thanksgiving always brings cinnamon brooms, yankee candles and pumpkin spice lattes. I recognize that Thanksgiving also brings pressures from the feast, family and friends, triggering stigma when experiencing chronic mental health issues.
The word Stigma was borrowed from Latin stigmat- meaning “mark, brand” and ultimately comes from Greek stizein, meaning ‘to tattoo’. In English it was first referred to a scar left by a hot iron, a brand.
Stigma is experienced as thoughts of ‘somethings not right with me’ and ‘no one is going to take me seriously’. It is the number one barrier to seeking support and treatment. Self-Stigma is when we internalize stigma and develop negative beliefs about ourselves. According to NAMI there are different types of Self Stigma
- Alienation: Feeling embarrassed or ashamed, inferior or disappointed in yourself for being ill.
- Stereotype endorsement: Applying stereotypes to yourself such as people with mental illness are violent, can’t live good or rewarding lives, can’t do certain typical things and can’t make decisions for themselves.
- Discrimination experience: Feeling discriminated against, patronized, ignored or not taken seriously.
- Social withdrawal: Avoiding getting close to people who don’t have mental illness, socializing or talking about yourself because you feel like a burden.
This study suggests that there are 2 approaches to self-stigma reduction:
- Enhancing skills for coping with improvements in self esteem, help seeking behavior and empowerment.
- Altering beliefs and attitudes of individuals.
Loved ones can often address self-stigma using these pointers:
- Try to understand. Do not underestimate the power of self stigma and assume that your loved one is experiencing self-stigma. Admit to yourself that stigma impacts us as well. And be prepared to apologize if you make stigmatizing comments unintentionally.
- Use Facts. Gather facts to prove that common stigma examples are false. For example, contrary to popular belief, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.
- Respond thoughtfully: Be aware that talking about self stigma is more about how your loved one feels rather than whether it is reasonable for them to believe the stereotype to be true. Do not diminish or dismiss emotions by saying ‘why do you feel that way?’ This provokes emotionally defensive responses.
- Listen: Use active listening when your loved one is willing to discuss self-stigma. Normalize the feelings associated with self stigma by engaging with peers.
- Keep in Mind: Self stigma can persist despite recovery. The fear of relapse can leave open the fear that ‘stigma was right all along’.
Fear and lack of understanding are common causes of stigma. At Inner Health we are on a mission to be bold and address these barriers. We do this by innovating and building digital solutions that can gather actionable data for clinicians and their clients.
Do you know a clinician or provider we should chat with that could use Inner Health to help their patients? Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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As always I am so glad you are interested in the Inner Health community. It is my privilege to be on this journey with you.