Tackling Stigma



The topic about how 
stigma can affect how we view mental illness is not new. The way that people talk about mental illness can not only impact how we view those with mental illness, but how we can view our own. We’ve talked about stigma several times before, because it’s important to change this mindset and the harmful effects that it can have.

There have been many efforts and attempts to change the conversation, especially online. One such way is through the governmentMentalHealth.gov provides content from other government organizations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and NAMI and uses the site as a resource for information about mental health. One of their primary goals is to tackle the conversation (or lack of) about mental health and create a new one within communities to help normalize it.

One of their pages focuses specifically on stigma, and even more specifically, presents it as a fact sheet. Here, they present a common “myth” about mental health that can contribute to the stigma and a more negative way about how people can handle their mental illnesses. Not only do they cover the myths that people believe in about those who have a mental illness, but they also debunk ones about to help others. These include how thinking that there’s no use in helping others because they’re a “lost cause” and that it’s impossible to prevent. The site also links to external resources with some of their facts to provide more information.

You can check it out here.

What are other myths you can think of about mental health? How do you think people can change the way they talk about mental health? Let us know below in the comments!

Can Schools Influence Stigma?

Our environments can have a powerful impact on how we view things, especially in how we view the things about ourselves. Because adolescents spent a lot of time in school, their teachers, their classmates, and the content that they learn can influence how they interpret information. This also includes mental health: conversations with peers and the ways that teachers talk about their expectations on students can have subtle, but lasting effects.

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There’s No Shame in Taking Antidepressants

The SOVA Project is happy to feature this blog post written by one in our team of fantastic SOVA Ambassadors—these are young people who help create meaningful blog posts from adolescents’ perspectives.

I was about four years into my battle with depression when I began taking Lexapro. I had been in and out of therapy in the preceding years, and each therapist I visited asked if I’d be interested in taking medication if my condition warranted it. I always said yes, but my mother was less enthusiastic about the prospect of me taking antidepressants. Continue reading There’s No Shame in Taking Antidepressants

Can You be Extroverted and Have Social Anxiety?

Our minds often give us images of certain types of people when we think about certain things. For example, we tend to think of those with anxiety to be by themselves, preferring to be alone and in the quiet. It can be easy and even confusing to separate introversion and social anxiety, since both include a preference of being alone and away from crowds. Even though there are significant differences, the assumption is that most people with social anxiety are also introverts, and that the two go hand in hand.

Continue reading Can You be Extroverted and Have Social Anxiety?

Do You Hold a Stigma on Mental Health?

The stigma that people can hold isn’t a new topic by any means when discussing mental health, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the stigma is still harmful. Though the conversation about mental health has become more open, whether it be from celebrities opening up about their experiences or the variety of apps to use as an outlet, it can still be terrifying for people to be honest about their own mental health. Continue reading Do You Hold a Stigma on Mental Health?

Looking at Substance Use

The SOVA Project is happy to feature this blog post written by one in our team of fantastic SOVA Ambassadors—these are young people who help create meaningful blog posts from adolescents’ perspectives.

16720279-abstract-word-cloud-for-substance-use-disorder-with-related-tags-and-termsSociety often looks negatively at those with substance use problems. There is a stigma and a false belief that those struggling with substance use are making a conscious choice to spiral downwards. It is rare that society considers the factors that may lead to a substance use issue—such as a poor mental state.

Actually, it is not uncommon for a person struggling with a mental health problem also to have a substance use difficulty as well. Many of those who are fighting depression and anxiety may use drugs or alcohol to escape or cope with the struggle within themselves.

Continue reading Looking at Substance Use

Say It Out Loud

We at SOVA are mental-health and communications professionals, and we use those skills to design blogs that give young people and their families information about mental illness in manageable portions that you can grasp. For example, here are just a few facts about the reality of living with mental illness as an American teen:

  • one in five teens lives with a mental health condition
  • more than half of those are not getting the help they need
  • stigma remains a huge barrier to teens who are seeking that help
  • teens who don’t seek help say they are afraid of peers perceiving them negatively

Statistics and facts like these can help put mental health issues in perspective. But the parts of our blogs to which many readers relate most closely are people’s stories.

Our hope is that SOVA will make it easier and less scary for you as the parent or caregiver of a teen with mental illness to share your experiences with others, and that together we can form a network of peers who can provide support for each other as you negotiate your challenges.

Continue reading Say It Out Loud

Being Labeled

What words describe your child? If someone did not know them at all, how would you describe them? You could probably make a long list of things. People are not one-dimensional. And even if most of the time if they are one way, in certain situations they might be the opposite. Let’s say most of the time they are a peacemaker, but if someone makes fun of their sister, they will pick a fight with them. There may even be things about them that seem to be opposites, but they are both there.

For example, maybe they have a lot of skill in math and science—but when it comes down to it, they could spend all their days just drawing with a charcoal pencil. People have many sides to them. And in one snapshot of their lives—they are one way—at another stage they might have left certain things behind and now there are new adjectives to describe who they are.

Continue reading Being Labeled

Benefits of Teen Mental-Health First-Aid Programs

MHFAA little while ago one of our blogging ambassadors reported on their positive experience becoming certified in mental health first aid at a workshop at her university. There are scientists who are studying programs like this, and evidence is coming in about how beneficial it is to teach adolescents about mental health so they can help their at-risk peers and reduce stigma against people asking for help.

Continue reading Benefits of Teen Mental-Health First-Aid Programs

Would medication change who I was?

When you get diagnosed with depression, or any mental illness, the first thing you might feel is relief. The realization that your feelings, struggles, and symptoms can be described by a diagnosis can make you feel better – you aren’t alone! But the second thing you might feel is embarrassment, shame, or guilt. You aren’t alone in that either. There is a lot of stigma when it comes to mental illness. Most people with mental illness go through a process of understanding, accepting, and figuring out how to manage their illness. When I was diagnosed in high school at first I felt some relief, but soon enough I was really conflicted when it came to defining my identity. Who was I? Was I the same person? Was I “crazy”?

I didn’t want anyone to find out about my mental illness, and honestly the best way to do that was through treating it so I could actually manage my symptoms. But I was really afraid to take medication.

Photo Credit: what_marty_sees via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: what_marty_sees via Compfight cc

For a long time I denied that I had a mental illness and refused to take any medication because that felt like I was admitting that I was “crazy.” I worried that taking medication would change who I was. Would I act differently? Would I still be fun? Would I still be smart? Who would I be after taking medication? My family and my psychiatrist wanted me to take medication but it seemed scarier to try medication versus living with my symptoms. At least my symptoms were predictable! I understood my depression, I knew how my mental illness felt, but taking medication was a big unknown. However, I really wasn’t able to live happily, I wasn’t able to accomplish my goals, and I wasn’t able to have healthy relationships. I realized that my mental illness wasn’t going to go away and I was so miserable! Maybe the medication would change me, but considering how terrible I felt I realized it might change me in a positive way! I wasn’t enjoying my life and medication seemed like a way to hopefully make it better and make me healthier.

Continue reading Would medication change who I was?