What is it really like to live with suicidal ideation? Suicide is still heavily stigmatized, with accusations of selfishness being one of the most prominent pieces of stigma used against it. Would knowing about suicidal ideation help reduce the stigma that's so quickly thrown at those who struggle with thoughts of dying by suicide? I believe understanding its impact can shed light beyond the misinformation that fuels suicide's stigma. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
Surviving Mental Health Stigma
When you're up against something and constantly pushing back against it, it's inevitable to wonder if the efforts are achieving anything. For instance, are we making progress combatting mental health stigma? There are campaigns upon campaigns, advocates upon advocates, so many voices and messages joining and leading the conversations about mental wellness and mental illness alike year after year. Surely, we must be making some progress combatting mental health stigma, right?
Mental health stigma not only changes how we perceive people, but it also changes the perception of learned behavior. When we take a deeper dive into behaviors that are written off with the excuse of the person doing them being "unstable" or with even harsher language, such as "psycho," it becomes clearer how mental health stigma can mask learned poor behaviors.
Mental health stigma is easier than compassion for those who struggle with mental health issues. Have you ever thought about how easily people seem to stigmatize others for their mental health struggles? The words are part of commonplace conversation and the way people with mental illness are treated is almost commonplace behavior. It doesn't take effort to participate in stigma.
Although mental health stigma and its impacts are often compartmentalized into specific moments or situations, the fear of mental health stigma has an impact on day-to-day life. It affects the way we carry ourselves and the way we navigate our days, and recognizing this can help garner a better understanding of stigma's impact.
There are a number of facets in the relationship between hygiene and mental health stigma. We probably recognize that mental illness affects hygiene, but the relationship extends to how both are viewed and the overall impact because of that relationship. This is where stigma comes into the picture.
Privilege has a role in overcoming mental health stigma, although it's not often at the forefront of our conversations in this sphere. I hadn't thought about it until recently, but when I mull over it and think about the many ways that privilege manifests, I can absolutely see privilege's role in overcoming the stigma around mental health.
There are lasting effects of mental health stigma that go beyond shame, silence, and the way we navigate the world. When thinking of stigma and its impacts, those are often the things that come up, but there are other lasting effects of mental health stigma as well, such as how we interact with people.
What does life look like beyond mental health stigma? I get this sense that we only see mental health stigma as this negative cloud hanging over living with mental illness, and then beyond that, it's all sunshine. We look toward that perceived sunshine with eagerness, but what I've discovered is it might not only be sunshine waiting for us.
To some degree, we're each aware mental health treatment is stigmatized, and that stigma is one of the barriers to people seeking professional guidance for mental illness and mental health struggles. What I don't think people would expect is how this stigma can also manifest in people's good intentions in conversations about mental health treatment.