Stigma

Stigma
The negative stereotyping or stigma associated with mental illness is significant. I have touched upon this subject in several places and it deserves mention again here. There are many anti-stigma campaigns running every year and hopefully, these are beginning to have a positive effect. My daughter feels the impact of stigma much more than I do because I can correct people's perception if I encounter stigma. For my daughter, it is still such a blow to her self-esteem, that she does not always have the confidence to overcome it. She does a lot of public speaking and tries to enlighten people how damaging the stigma can be.

Judgement

Judgement
One thing I commonly see is that people with mental illness are judged. This judgment often characterizes the ill person as inferior, dangerous, dirty, lazy, not intelligent or in some other negative light. This is not only unfair, it also damages the self-esteem and confidence of the ill person. The judgment is then used to discriminate, shun or avoid the ill person. What is needed is empathy and compassion, not judgment.

Humor

Humor
Humor is a great stress reliever. You might think there is nothing funny about mental illness and you would be mostly correct. However, being able to release stress by seeing some humor or irony in some of the situations that occur, helps keep things real. I’m not sure how to explain exactly what I mean, but one example would be the “Stand-Up-For-Mental-Health” program which teaches people with lived experience of mental health problems to perform stand-up comedy. “Google” the program website and watch some of the performances. My daughter did the program and along with others performed in front of over two-hundred people. This performance was instrumental in increasing her self-esteem and confidence. The ability to laugh at herself has made a big difference in her life.

Emotions

Emotions
Emotions influence behavior and my daughter became very sensitive to emotional fluctuations. A simple harmless comment would cause an angry emotional outburst along with associated bad behavior. This caused me to feel like I was walking on eggshells whenever I was around her. I was afraid to speak in case it brought on an angry outburst. This was tough and I always tried to be especially conscious of the words I was using. I have heard this same sentiment from other family members. It’s no fun when you can’t speak for fear of causing a huge emotional outburst from your loved one. After I had learned to handle the anger through good communication, I became more comfortable and do not worry about angry outbursts. I still have to be very careful with anything that could be construed as criticism because my daughter’s self-esteem is still very fragile, and even non-intended criticism sends her into depression.

Discrimination

Discrimination

Discrimination is unconstitutional and is very hurtful to people who are discriminated against. My daughter constantly felt she was being discriminated against because of her mental illness.  In today’s society, it is still quite common for people with mental illness to be discriminated against, I have personally seen this in action. Many people avoid mentioning they have a mental illness because they fear employers will judge them, and not hire them. My daughter is very sensitive to being treated differently just because she has a mental illness: It hurts her self-esteem.

Dignity

Dignity

Dignity is an inherent sense of value and worth that I believe is a building block of self-esteem. We all need to be given acknowledgment of our worth and be given the ability to make choices so that we feel respected. This is important to make us feel our life is worthwhile. My daughter explained to me one day that she was tired of people looking down at her and treating her as though she was stupid. She felt that her dignity was being stripped from her. All she wanted was for people to acknowledge her as a valued human being and listen to her instead of just telling her what to do. She wanted to let people know that just because she has a mental illness it does not mean she is mentally deficient or retarded.