Pepper Hadlow – Does secrecy reinforce stigma?

Doesn’t it seem as though hiding something makes it appear to be something you should hide?

If we’re all going around not telling people, then we’re sending a message to ourselves and everyone else — those who know, and those who don’t — that it’s bad, that it’s shameful, reprehensible, something to be embarrassed about, something to apologize for. At least, that’s how it looks to me.

All those shiny, happy “normal” people won’t know how common, and actually not terrifying, mental illness can be.

High-functioning mentally ill folks can kind of keep it under wraps, so the only mental illness that’s really visible is the kind that lands people in the hospital, which is the scary-looking kind of mental illness.

For many people, it has to be that bad before they will even seek help. That’s obviously problematic on multiple levels.

Why is it the case, though? Partly, I think, it’s this secrecy thing.

If something’s off, you might not want to let on to anyone or find a doctor, might not want to even acknowledge it yourself, because you don’t know how actually normal it is for people to be a bit off.

In my opinion, everyone should be in therapy, because everyone has issues, and no one is perfect enough to be able to handle all of theirs.

People hide it, though, because they don’t want anyone to know, and don’t want to think they are “mentally ill,” which is a phrase with all KINDS of bad connotations.

With no intervention, something a little bit off can get way, way off. Then you end up in the hospital, being the kind of extreme example that scared you away from being honest with yourself in the first place.

When I look at things this way, the whole “what will people think of me?!?!” line of thinking seems a little silly and self-defeating, and not super helpful to the whole “erase the stigma” cause.

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