14 thoughts on “Internalized Stigma Makes It Hard to Be An Advocate For The Mentally Ill

  • December 29, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Experience is a well that MI sufferers sometimes fall within and those witnessing are not prepared to accept. Rebecca is right. The stigma is real. But concealing your diagnosis is the worst thing you can do for yourself. I just posted a quote from a Star Trek Voyager clip on Twitter -I’m afraid to say-nevertheless explores this very human response to deny ourselves the reality of confronting our sinister compulsions. In essence, paraphrasing of course, if we ignore our compulsions to react negatively to difficult circumstances we essentially provide outlets for anger, adverse triggers, and lasciviousness to well up and consume our emotions and coping mechanisms. I am so sorry that hiding a diagnosis is the only way sometimes to solicit others to take a chance on hiring you. It is a socially reinforcing dilemma for those of us that accept and face the realities of our MI daily. It is difficult to accept ourselves sometimes let alone to invite strangers into our purview and hope they can cope well enough to let us loose on the common and difficult task of putting up a professional facade to accomplish a business goal. But that’s it! I think. We all must subsume a character that is acceptable and profitable in a professional collaboration and sell it, that is a piece of ourselves, to be successful. MI in reality is just such a characteristic that won’t sell. Try telling a potential employer that reality without wavering and they might just hire you for the shear fortitude of successfully addressing such a difficult reality that is the stigamatization of MI sufferers.

    • December 29, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Thank you for reading and for adding your input. I don’t hide my diagnosis anymore, but I understand those who do. It is a difficult choice to make. I choose to live openly now, and I feel better for it. Living openly is the right choice for me but I wasn’t always confident or comfortable enough to take that step. Thanks again for adding your thoughts! 🙂

  • December 29, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    How I wish the person had said he’s “a regular person with mental illness.” We are, after all, regular people. But if “regular” means “without mental illness,” then why are 20 percent of the population living with a mental health diagnosis or experiencing issues with mental health? I think if 1/5th of the population has a similar issue, it’s not irregular; it’s mainstream.

    The best of luck with your job hunt. Stay strong for yourself.

    • December 29, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      Thank you, and good point!

  • December 30, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    I too thank you for being so candid about exposing your MI despite the stigma, you give me hope. As a caregiver and advocate it is twofold for me. Personally I have a daughter diagnosed with Schizoprenia 5 yrs ago and she is still in denial. She is treatment resistant, never hospitalized, no episodes and considered high functioning whatever that means. On the other hand it is professional having been the Recruiter for Behavioral Health and Psychiatry in a hospital setting for the past fifteen years. I felt is was a blessing that I was being prepared for what was to come. My daughter never exhibited any signs of MI growing up. She was a stellar student who excelled at everthing she did..She was on her way to Carnegie Mellon when my family suffered a major tragedy when my only brother was murdered. He was the male figure throughout her life so she ended up staying in our state and went to a college maybe an hour away. That I believe is when her bottom fell out and our lives has since forever changed.. With all that said I felt fortunate having the resources at my disposal and wherewithall to navigate the system of services necessary to get her treatment.. Interviewing and hiring many people in Psych the support and referrals were at my fingertips.. However. to date I have not been able to get her in a program to completion, medication and or counseling successfulky. Maybe for short periods of time due to her resistance.. She is now 25 soon to be 26 and I cannot force her to cooperate..I’m told since she is no threat to herself or others I am at a dead end. many of the services in our area she does not meet the criteria for programs, she has no hospitalizations on record. Basically the long and short of it is were at a wait and see stance. That is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard she needs to have an episode, get into some legal trouble or worse hurt herself or others to qualify for most services. Everyone with MI may not necessarily present the same or experience symptoms the same..I am at my wits end at this point.

    • December 30, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      Thank you for sharing your difficult experiences. I have heard similar stories from other parents. My own parents had difficulty getting me treatment during my first episode of psychosis. It took me several years before I took my medication regularly and took my treatment seriously. I hope that you can find some comfort in the fact that it can get better. In the mean time, I hope your daughter is safe and remains safe, and I hope you can take care of yourself and not be overcome by frustration or worry. I wish I had a simple solution to offer you, but unfortunately I don’t.

  • December 30, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Hi, thanks for the article. After reading it I guess Im one of those people who “conceal” their mental illness. Here is the thing though…if I had a cold every day for twenty years Id be happy to inform everyone I met, in fact it would be my duty to inform everyone…that I had a cold…that just never seemed to go away no matter what I did to cure it. Pleaae dont get too close because you could catch a cold…IMO mental ilness is the latest and fastest growing industry in the world…yes that’s right…industry. If you have a mental illness the very first port of call is a psychiatrists (industry specialist) or psychologist (industry specialist) maybe a doctor (industry specialist). All these industry specialists will then “recommend” a “wonder drug” to help you. From that point on you are essentially on your own unless you have access to wads of cash for alternative therapies and advice. SOOOOOO…..you go on the meds and get hooked…just like an addict who visits his or her dealer each week or month for their “fix”. As I say…you’re on your own from here, on your own to work out what the hell is going on, how did this happen and how am I going to fix it, which is closely followed by if not thought of beforehand, I’ll never be able to do it. But you have to! if you want to truly get well. The real mental illness people have once they beleive the people who are telling them they have a mental illness is…that they believed the person who told them they have a mental illness in the first place. Most of the people I have met with “mental illnesses” are pretty much doing and saying the same things they were when someone diagnosed them as having a mental illnes. What I mean by that is…the majority are throwing pills down their throat which have been prescribed by an industry specialist which keeps them in a state of paralysis…working paralysis but paralysis all the same. I call them the walking dead. No emotions, no zest, no nothing, just existing in fear and telling everyone they have a “mental illness” Existing in fear of actually living their lives how they should be living it but can’t because “society” cant deal with them. And this is the MAJOR problem. Society is a system, it’s not real life. It’s a pre-programmed system that runs on clock work like a well oiled machine. Anytime someone or something comes along that does not exhibit robotic behaivior the system cannot deal with it because it is not designed to deal with “real life, with real people with real emotions. People talk about mental illness like it is something to be avoided like leprosy. “Oh he was rantiung and raving like a madman, hes a nutcase, stay away from him while I call the men in white jackets” Oh, she has imaginary friends that she talks to…shes nuts, completely insane! BUT YET….everybody thinks that it is perfectly normal and perfectly sane and that mentally well people tell other mentally well people to hop into a plane, fly half way around the world and drop a bomb on a family of innocent mentally well women and children…that they have never met and do not know. THAT IS CONSIDER NOT MENTALLY ILL. Yet people will defend that kind of behaviour until their dying breath..even so called mentally ill people. Their argument is…”well I know it’s not right but what can I do…I’m mentally ill”.
    I was diagnosed by an industry specialist over 10 years ago. At the time I was at the lowest point in my life…an all to common story. What was I told to do? Here…have some of these little pills…they will help!”. Most people who get diagnosed as MI have the same story as mine. This story is the same story you will hear from the drug addicts on the street, the sex workers or any marginalised people who when at their lowest point someone invaribly steps in with a little pill with the promise of making things alright.
    The only thing they are making right is the bulge in their wallet as you and I get hooked on their drugs, sometimes for life.

    So to conclude….I dont conceal an MI because I dont have an MI. What I have have is different veiw, a different belief and different ideas to the rest of the world. And if people cant deal with the fact that I dont want milk in my tea and I dont care if everyone else does have milk then tough luck, I’m an individual. Imagine how boring the world would be if all 7 billion people walked around it the same way.
    Like I say…MI is just another growing industry designed by the pharmaceutical giants. But…if you want to call me mentally ill for stepping out of line hey…no problem! At least ill actually be able to see the mentally sane line for what it is and how far it stretches…it’s just a line. You’re looking at the back of the person in front of you who’s doing the same to the next person and so on and so on. Once you step out of line you see the robotic behaviour that mentally well people believe is normal…it’s actually quite funny and very sad at the same time.

    One last thing…if you’re were out in the the middle of the forest with no-one around just minding your own business and your “mental illness” turned up…what would you do? Who would you listen to? who would you ask ask for advice? How would you deal with the situation?

    If the answer is picking up a stone and bashing it on your head then yes….you do have a mental illness.

    Thanks and Regards.

    • December 30, 2015 at 11:28 pm

      Thanks for your comments and sharing your opinion. I agree with some of your points, and enjoyed reading your post. I don’t think everyone needs to come out in public with their diagnosis. I only think it is sad that so many people feel they have to hide it because of the stigma and negative stereotypes. We have a different opinion on medication though – I wouldn’t be alive without my medication so I don’t have negative feelings about taking it. I do believe the drug industry has become huge and there seems to be a pill for everything, but I have a severe mental illness and can’t have a fulfilling life without the help of medication. I imagine I am not alone in my need for medication. I am sure there are some people who have a mental illness and can manage without drugs, but I’m not one of them.:) Happy New Year to you!

  • December 30, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Thanks Rebecca,
    I hear what you are saying for you personally. I’m not going to get into a debate with you about any of this other than to say…I wouldn’t have had any option but to deal with whatever it is or was that was happening in my life when I was diagnosed with an “MI” if I lived in the middle of the outback in Australia or if I had lived 2000 years ago in Siberia or the Amazon Jungle…..however I dont live in any of those situations or times but I can still deal with it the same way as if I was in those situations or times…if I choose to, which I did….eventually.
    Thanks again.

    • December 31, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Thank you for keeping it polite (on the Internet that seems to be rare). I can’t argue with your reasoning. Yes, my situation is of course, for me personally. I probably make generalizations at times (by not thinking about it) but I try to remember that things are different for everyone.

  • December 31, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Thank you for writing this article . There is no rhyme or reason to the discrimination . Is it because people are still afraid of MI ? My daughter was denied a job because of her meds , then got the exact same job with another company . They knew about her meds too ! I have slowly told people of my daughters diagnosis of schizoAffective disorder .It seems when I te ll a person , I am surprised the mental illness they have in their circle too. I think people are just scared . I hope it is changing . I am a health care professional , and it is still kind of scary to me Thank God for medication . It has helped my daughter come back from the brink , and function as a productive, relatively happy person . All we can do is educate and keep moving forward .

    • December 31, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story. I am happy that your daughter is doing well. Yes, discrimination still exists, but hopefully it is getting better as more and more people write about living with a mental illness.

  • January 2, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    This article has inspired me to tell possible friends or romantic interests about my SP first thing. Simply, if they run away, they’re not friends worth having.

    • January 3, 2016 at 9:06 am

      I take my time telling most people. In fact, there are still people in my life who don’t know. I use my judgement about it. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!


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