Behaviour & Impact of Stigma
by See Change Ambassador, Roisin Murphy
Stigma in mental health is and always has been a very powerful thing. When you’re feeling good, it’s easy to brush things off, give an “I don’t care what people think” kind of attitude. But when you’re not feeling so good, it can be all-consuming. The smallest thing that you read on Twitter, or a passing remark from someone, can feel like a slap in the face. People’s behaviour, even when unintentional, can have the hugest impact on someone’s mental health.
My personal experience with stigma has always been around the use of medication, from people I know, and from some medical professionals. There’s the idea that using medication can mean you’ve failed with all other treatments, that it’s a shameful thing that you’ve had to resort to medication. Some medical professionals have previously also almost scared me out of using them, by catastrophising possible side effects, many of which I found, on further research, to be extremely rare.
In the media, such as in films or TV programmes, the people taking medication for mental health issues are almost always portrayed as violent, loud, unpredictable characters. Things like this make it a lot harder for people using medication for their mental health issues. I’m not sure if writers and producers of these shows and films realise the impact that this has on people.
It’s hard enough dealing with a mental health issue without feeling like you’re being judged by people around you, including people who are meant to be helping you. It’s taken a long time for me to become more comfortable with the way I deal with my mental health issues. I’m not saying it’s always going to be easy. I still have days where I feel like I’m doing all the wrong things, because of what I see in the media, and hear from other people. But it gets easier over time, and surrounding yourself with people who accept you and trust your judgement in what paths you take in terms of treatment can make all the difference. This is your journey, nobody else’s.
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