Mental Illness: Fighting the Stigma

Schizoaffective disorder and stigma

Mental illness is often associated with stigma that survivors have to work hard to overcome…

I’ve received a couple of emails recently related to my schizoaffective disorder blog  asking me for advice. I’m starting to realize how difficult it is for people to understand mental illness.

Every person is unique, and so what might work for one individual may not be suitable for another. Families and loved ones in particular are often faced with extremely difficult decisions about how to care for their partner, parent, sibling or child who is suffering from a mental illness. Schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia are extremely complex illnesses, and no one person can ever hope to manage it on their own.

Because of the stigma and misunderstanding that surround mental illness and schizophrenia in particular, I believe that people suffering from these illnesses often don’t want to admit that this is what they may be dealing with. Depression is fairly common these days, and isn’t too difficult to accept and get treatment for, but illnesses such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and others have all kinds of stereotypes that people don’t want to be associated with.

I recommended NAMI as a wonderful resource for people suffering from mental illness and the families who care for them. The NAMI national website even has a StigmaBuster program ( to help combat inaccurate and hurtful representations of mental illness on TV, film and other media.

Even though I’ve had my blog for over a year now, I still don’t mention my illness to very many people that I meet in person. I’ve shared my experiences with my family, my husband’s family, and my Buddhist group first and foremost. Now, I’m starting to open up, and worry less about the stigma and what other people might think of me.

Sometimes I think that other people might view me as incompetent due to my diagnosis in the sense that my thought process and intellectual faculties might not be up to par. I’m getting to the point now where I’m not really concerned about this so much anymore. It’s too much trouble trying to separate my illness from the rest of my life. I’ve found that most people are supportive and understanding, and although I haven’t worked in the traditional sense in a couple of years, I am finding other ways to be productive and hopefully earn a living with my writing. As with my blog, I am finding that writing my memoir is a way for me to share my experiences, and encourage others.

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