Walking Away Does Not Help Fight Mental Health Stigma

September 18, 2016 Laura A. Barton

Fighting mental health stigma isn't done by walking away. Although, in general, “walk away” is actually some pretty solid advice. If you’re looking to avoid confrontation, triggers, frustrations or other detrimental situations, then yes, by all means, please save yourself the grief and trouble by walking away. But as someone looking to advocate against the stigma of mental illnesses, I know that walking away doesn't help fight mental health stigma.

Don’t Walk Away from Mental Health Stigma Fighting Opportunities

Walking away from mental health stigma is not usually good advice. We can only fight stigma by standing up to it. When is it okay to walk away from stigma?When we walk away from a chance to fight mental health stigma, we let ignorance continue to thrive (What Is Stigma?). We miss the opportunity to challenge stigmatized ideas, to share correct information, and, ultimately, the chance to change someone’s mind.

Stigma continues to exist because so many people stay silent or walk away from it; so while walking away can definitely be a useful tool on a personal level, walking away as an advocate isn’t useful for mental health awareness as a whole.

Sometimes You Should Walk Away from Mental Illness Stigma

There are only a couple of times I can think of to walk away from a stigma-fighting situation.

One of those is when the person just doesn’t get it. Unfortunately, some people just don’t know how to shift their thinking, or can’t, even when given facts. With those people, you can only go so far before it becomes too frustrating and too exhausting to deal with it. It’s like talking to a brick wall.

The other time to walk away and not fight mental health stigma is if you need some time for self-care. We can’t be fighters all the time and we need to take some time to recharge. Recognize when you need that and walk away. I know, firsthand, how exhausting it can be to fight against stigma and we all need that time for ourselves, too.

Don't Walk Away: Help Fight Mental Health Stigma

Apart from those instances, step up. Part of advocacy is spotting stigma, pointing it out, and challenging it and those who perpetuate it. Stigma will never be eradicated if we turn a blind eye to it and hope it will go away. It’s like those who say ignore your bullies and they’ll lose their power—sure, it might work in some cases, but, overall, we set ourselves up to be punching bags because they know we won’t fight back and they will take our silence to mean they’re right.

It’s only when we offer people alternative ideas and alternative perspectives that people have the chance to change. If no one challenges the stigma, the person perpetuating it won’t know any differently.

Walking Toward Mental Illness Stigma Stops Stigma

It’s unrealistic to think we can change everyone’s minds and get rid of stigma for everyone. There will probably always be at least one person or one group of people who can’t see beyond their own perspectives, but changing at least one person’s mind and helping him or her see past stigma is worth the battle.

You can find Laura on Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Facebook and her blog; also see her book, Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2016, September 18). Walking Away Does Not Help Fight Mental Health Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Ontario, Canada. Find her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.

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