July 6, 2023

Overcoming the Self-Stigma of Mental Illness

Imagine living with a mental health condition and feeling like you have to hide it from the world because of the stigma and discrimination that surrounds it. This is the reality for millions of people around the world who struggle with mental health challenges.

The stigma of mental health can cause you to feel like you are not understood or that you are making others uncomfortable because they don't know how to help. The fear of being judged, criticized, or discriminated against can be overwhelming, leading you to hide your struggles and suffer in silence. This can lead to a sense of isolation and loneliness, which can worsen your mental health and prevent you from seeking the support and treatment you need.

However, it is possible to overcome the challenges of stigma as we discuss below.  

How to Overcome Stigma

One effective way to overcome stigma is to seek out education and resources about mental health challenges. This can include reading books or articles, attending support groups or therapy sessions, or talking to trusted friends or family members about one's experiences. By becoming informed about mental health challenges, you can challenge the negative stereotypes and misconceptions that contribute to stigma.

Self-compassion and self-care are also crucial in overcoming stigma. 

This involves treating oneself with kindness and understanding, rather than judgment and criticism. It can include activities like practicing mindfulness and meditation, seeking out enjoyable hobbies and activities, and getting enough sleep and exercise. By taking care of oneself physically, emotionally, and mentally, you can build resilience and confidence in managing your mental health challenges.

Another helpful action is to surround yourself with people who support you.

Surrounding yourself with supportive people can be incredibly helpful in overcoming the stigma of having a mental health condition. When you have a supportive network of friends, family, or peers who understand and empathize with your experiences, it can make it easier to speak out about your struggles and seek the help and support that you need.

One of the ways that supportive people can help is by providing a safe and non-judgmental space for you to talk openly about your experiences. They can listen to your concerns and offer support and encouragement, which can be incredibly empowering. Having someone to talk to who understands what you are going through can help to alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness and provide a sense of connection.

Additionally, supportive people can help to challenge the negative stereotypes and misconceptions that contribute to stigma. By understanding and empathizing with your experiences, they can help to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and promote understanding and empathy. This can make it easier to speak out about your struggles without fear of being judged or discriminated against.

Standing up for yourself and drawing upon your inner strength can be a powerful way to overcome the stigma you may hold about having a mental health condition. It can help you to challenge the negative beliefs and attitudes that contribute to self-stigma and build resilience and confidence in managing your mental health challenges. For example, if you find yourself believing that having a mental health condition makes you weak or flawed, you can challenge this belief by reminding yourself of your strengths and accomplishments. You can also seek out positive affirmations or mantras that remind you of your worth and value as a person.

A specific example of how to stand up for yourself and draw upon your inner strength could be setting boundaries with others who may be contributing to stigma. For example, if you have a friend who makes insensitive comments about mental health challenges, you can speak up and let them know that their comments are hurtful and contribute to stigma. By setting boundaries and speaking out, you are taking a stand against stigma and showing others that mental health challenges should be met with empathy and support, rather than judgment and discrimination.

Help to Challenge the Stigma of Mental Health

If you’re someone who does not have mental health challenges but wants to help reduce the stigma associated with mental health, one of the most effective ways is to educate yourself and others about mental health challenges. By becoming informed about mental health, you can challenge misconceptions and stereotypes and promote positive attitudes toward mental health. Additionally, you can show empathy and support towards those with mental health challenges, which can help to reduce the sense of isolation and self-stigma that these individuals may experience.

The Next Step Is Yours

In conclusion, overcoming stigma about mental health challenges requires education, self-compassion, surrounding yourself with supportive people, and standing up for yourself and drawing upon your strengths. By taking these steps you will challenge and break down the stigma that may be holding you back from seeking help and managing your mental health challenges. 

Learn More About Stigma

Here are some resources that may be helpful in understanding and combating stigma related to mental illness:

Time to Change. Stigma and Discrimination.


Addressing Stigma. Canadian Association of Mental Health.


Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness. The Mayo Clinic.


9 Ways to Fight Stigma. National Alliance on Mental Health.


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