Overcoming Stigma in Recovery: National Silence the Shame Day


Observing National Silence the Shame Day

Each year, nonprofit organization Silence the Shame mobilizes its resources to get the word out about the stigma surrounding mental health. Through community discussions, compelling content, and an array of outreach efforts, this educational group is able to raise awareness and normalize the conversation surrounding mental health in the United States and beyond. Today, we observe the fourth annual National Silence the Shame Day and analyze the impact of stigma on the receipt of proper mental health care and addiction services.

How Stigma Reduces Access to Care

The Center for Health Progress defines stigma as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” The negative connotations surrounding mental illness and addiction are significant, which is especially devastating when one considers how many people are affected by these issues. In any given year, 25% of Americans will be affected by a mental health disorder, and 60% of them will not seek treatment.

Many people view mental illness as something other than a health problem; they may believe that it is something that can wait, or a condition that will resolve itself. It’s also not uncommon for stigma to stifle clarifying conversations with family members, who may misunderstand the severity of one’s diagnosis or write it off as a weakness. In some instances, the stigma of mental illness can jeopardize professional and personal opportunities, or even result in bullying or harassment from others. Over time, this may diminish one’s feelings of empowerment, resulting in a pervasive belief that a person cannot improve their situation.

How Can We Overcome Stigma?

The negative impact of stigma on access to care cannot be overstated, meaning that it is important for those of us in the community to fight back by educating others. Fortunately, there are concrete steps that can be taken to cope with the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health.

Seek Treatment.

Take the first step and admit that you need help. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness or addiction prevent you from getting treatment. Only by acknowledging that treatment is necessary and will improve your life can you begin to heal. Through this process, you can find relief from the symptoms negatively impacting your life.

Fight Self-Doubt

Stigma isn’t purely external; it also comes from patterns of negative self-talk. If you’re constantly thinking about your condition as a sign of weakness or a flaw in your character, recovery will be especially challenging. By pursuing therapy during treatment, you can learn to battle negative self-talk and foster a sense of pride in who you are.

Join a Support Group

You are not alone – an estimated one in four Americans have a diagnosable mental illness, and 19.7 million battled a substance use disorder in 2017. By joining a support group and regularly attending meetings, you can hear stories from others about their experiences, which can inform your own approach to recovery.

Avoid Isolation

This is especially challenging during the era of COVID-19, but it is vitally important to those in early recovery. If you suspect that you may have a diagnosable mental illness or substance use disorder, you may be reluctant to speak with people about it. However, cutting yourself off from your support network can be detrimental to your well-being. Instead, lean on your friends, family, and others during your times of greatest need.

Speak Your Truth

Once you have progressed in your recovery, you may find it empowering to take part in events like those scheduled in observance of National Silence the Shame Day. You can do this from the comfort of your own home by hosting streams to discuss mental health, writing blog posts on the topic, or sharing your own journey to social media. This can instill courage in others who may be hesitant to seek treatment.

Maternal Mental Health

Of the most stigmatized groups, the one that is particularly salient for us this week would have to be the world’s mothers. On May 6th, The Postpartum Stress Center observes World Maternal Mental Health Day. In many countries, as many as 20% of new mothers experience some sort of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. Symptoms can appear at any time during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. It is important for mothers experiencing these symptoms to feel comfortable seeking evidence-based, well-researched treatment for mental illness. At Pine Grove, we provide a safe, accepting environment with programs especially tailored to the needs of new or expecting mothers. To learn more about our programming, visit our Pre-Natal, Perinatal, and Post-Partum page.

Silence the Shame with Pine Grove

At Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services, we understand that the negativity surrounding mental health and substance use disorders stems from a lack of understanding. We hope to do our part in providing reliable, fact-driven information about mental health care and recovery. To learn more about our approach to treatment, please contact us today.

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