Don't Take It To Heart
Online communities also provided me with a convenient place to vent my feelings regarding stigma and negative comments; they allow anonymous breathing space and a sympathetic ear.
Having a good support network in place is vital to cope with every aspect of having any illness, and handling negative reactions is no exception. A simple text from a friend is enough to cheer us up sometimes, and building therapeutic relationships with those around me proved to be a positive experience, and one that has helped me constant times in the future.
While at first my immediate friends and family did not react in the way I hoped, the key here is education – I armed myself with knowledge and gently talked them through the ins and outs of having a mental illness. One vital skill I learnt was to be confident in myself when talking to other people, explain to them that it is really no different to having any kind of visible illness.
I often use the diabetes comparison when explaining medication to people – you wouldn’t (sensibly) question someone with type 1 diabetes using insulin, and my use of medication is exactly the same – necessary and important.
The only way that mental health stigma is going to continue being defeated is if people fight it – hence I’m a huge advocate of positive mental health research. I’ve taken to social media, started a blog, and attend local events in order to try and raise awareness – I’ve even overcome my fear of public speaking to give a couple of speeches! By attending events I’ve also increased my support network, and have gained people I can turn to in a crisis, or even just call for a cup of tea.
Know When To Walk Away
Of course, there is one ultimately powerful thing I’ve done to cope with mental health stigma, although I only employ this method when all other options have been exhausted. If I am still being met with a brick wall of stubborn disbelief at the existence of mental health problems, and am only being subjected to rude comments, then I walk away.
If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: don’t let someone get to you that much. Unfortunately, the world will never be perfect, and there will always be those who don’t believe that a medical illness can’t exist; that we really do need to "pull our socks up" and "get on with it," because after all it’s just a case of "mind over matter."
Happily though, I’ve very rarely had to go down that route, as most of the time people respond positively to calm explanations, a personal journey, and a smattering of science and facts.