Patient Blogs | Depression
Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness
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The stigma surrounding mental illness causes additional pain to those already struggling. It causes many people to not seek professional help and treatment for their mental illness. Together we can help end the stigma.

Speak up.

If you see or hear someone using stigmatizing language about mental illness, say something. It’s possible the person is just not educated enough on mental illness. Let them know that using stigmatizing language when talking about mental illness is not OK and it hurts others. Stigmatizing language is a huge factor in the continuation of the stigma of mental illness. 

Catch yourself when you hold a preconceived opinion about someone because of their mental illness. Also, all people with mental illness deserve to be treated fairly and without stigma regardless of the severity of their illness. 

Be vulnerable first.

Opening up to someone can help them open up to you too. Brené Brown brilliantly said, “Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you.” I take this statement as motivation to be the person that’s vulnerable first. I have found that a lot of people open up after I do first. I have been open that I struggle with depression and anxiety, and then some will say, “I’ve struggled with one of those before.”

Educate yourself on mental illness.

There is a lot of false information said about mental illness. If more people learned the truth about mental illness, it could decrease the stigma. Mental illness is just like a physical illness. It’s not a person’s fault for having a mental illness. There are several different causes of mental illness, including biology, experiences, trauma, genetics, and environment. 

I’ve worn a green bracelet from NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) on my wrist for 5 years now. It says “STIGMA FREE” on it. I don’t take it off because I want to always be reminded of my passion for mental illness. It shows others that being stigma-free on mental illness is important. It gives me a chance to talk about it when someone sees my bracelet. 

When I talk to someone about my depression or anxiety, I speak of it as if the stigma doesn’t exist. Talking about mental illness just as if it’s a physical illness helps to keep the conversation stigma-free.

Understand that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Stigma is what gives shame to mental illness. It’s not the person’s fault, and they deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else. Don’t hold a stigma against yourself if you have a mental illness. It is entirely possible to hold no judgment on others who have a mental illness, but then beat yourself up for your own diagnosis. Don’t do this. You’re the one who spends the most time with yourself, so you shouldn’t hold a stigma on yourself. You deserve the same love and compassion you’re giving to others.



Photo Credit: Sofia Bagdasarian / EyeEm via Getty Images

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Katharine Hartleb

Katharine Hartleb

Diagnosed since 2014

Katharine Hartleb was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2014, at age 16. She has a passion for helping others and plans on becoming a mental health counselor. Hartleb lives in Charleston, SC, and is a recovery coach at a substance use disorder facility. She is also a young adult presenter for NAMI, sharing her personal story. Connect with her through her personal Instagram and her kat4kindness Instagram.

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