Conquering the Stigma Of Mental Illness From Within: Why ‘Suck It Up’ Makes Things Worse

PIC: Pablo Picasso, "Melancholy Woman"

PIC: Pablo Picasso, “Melancholy Woman”

Janice Arenofsky writes at Esperanza:

When Stacy G. was diagnosed with depression, the Calgary mother of two rejected the notion. In her family, mental illness was either a taboo topic or ridiculed with terms like “nut cake” or “nut job.” Stacy blamed her persistent sadness and negativity on a stressful job and pledged to banish this “crappy thing” from her life through sheer determination. Friends told her to think positively, turn herself over to God or push through it.

“You see people every day thinking you should just ‘suck it up’ …,” says Stacy, referring to widely held views that depression is a moral failing or character flaw.

Then a close family friend died, and her “suck it up” strategy stopped working. Once a Type A personality, she became easily fatigued and unable to concentrate or cope with pressure. She couldn’t stop crying. She began to draw away from friends and family, in part from fear of their negative reactions.

“A good friend at work talked to me once after I told her what was going on, and then I never heard from her again,” says Stacy, 42, who took medical leave from her job as a revenue analyst. “I pretty much shut everyone out, because I was afraid of what others would say or think.”

Like many people with depression, Stacy bought into long-held public attitudes toward the condition. Her self-stigma delayed her treatment, increased her isolation, warped her self-image and lowered her self-esteem—a closed-circuit loop that only deepens depression.

A range of research shows that when social stigma becomes internalized as self-stigma, individuals with depression are far less likely to seek treatment.

For example, a 2009 study from Leipzig University in Germany identified internalized stigma as “an important mechanism decreasing the willingness to seek psychiatric help”—and of far more influence than “anticipated discrimination.” Likewise, a U.S. study of college students, published in Medical Care Research and Review in May 2009, found that personal stigma (as opposed to perceived stigma) was “significantly” associated with unwillingness to seek help.

Shaking off the shame and blame of self-stigma, therefore, may be the first step to recovery from depression—and to recovering a positive sense of self.

Patrick Corrigan, PsyD, director of the National Consortium on Stigma and Empowerment at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, recommends several strategies for self-empowerment.

Education to replace “mental health myths” with facts about depression can be useful in some circumstances, he says —both for the individual with depression and the people around them.

Pushing back against social stigma through advocacy and activism can counteract internalized stigma, Corrigan says—not to mention attack self-stigma at its source.

Most effective, however, are approaches that help those with depression realize they are not alone, that they have nothing to hide, and that they are not condemned by the condition.

“The concept of recovery needs reintroduction,” says Corrigan. “People need hope, and the fact is that most people do recover.”

Read more here.

55 Comments on "Conquering the Stigma Of Mental Illness From Within: Why ‘Suck It Up’ Makes Things Worse"

  1. erte4wt4etrg | Jun 3, 2014 at 10:09 pm |

    Advocacy and activism? Our is entire society is dangerously insane, that’s whats never declared outright in stupid articles like this

    • I don’t get your meaning. Please explain.

      • erte4wt4etrg | Jun 3, 2014 at 10:58 pm |

        Ok, I just think without plainly addressing our society’s ongoing collective psychosis any talk about ‘mental health’ and all the stigma around it is totally pointless. The whole sick environment isn’t being taken into account, just certain individuals taking the rap for the rest

        • Excellent point.
          To paraphrase Krishnamurti: It is no mark of sanity to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

          • erte4wt4etrg | Jun 3, 2014 at 11:25 pm |

            Thanks. The very fact the mental health industry doesn’t even recognize our obvious epidemic means its complicit in propagating the very madness its supposed to be treating. Its an embedded part of the whole diseased structure and has no authority to speak whatsoever.

          • What’s a crazy person to do?

          • A good bleeding? Leeches, perhaps? Trepanation? An exorcism? A high colonic? Psychic Friends Channel?

          • Butthurt cream.

          • erte4wt4etrg | Jun 4, 2014 at 10:34 am |

            All of the above!

          • overdone | Jun 4, 2014 at 8:02 am |

            How many guesses do I get? What do I win if I get this right?

          • Take that magic pill or change your life.

          • LSD or MDMA?

          • Oginikwe | Jun 4, 2014 at 2:23 pm |

            LOL!! Whatever works. I was thinking more along the lines of antidepressants. Although, the ones you suggested would probably work better, have longer lasting effects, and have fewer to no side effects. ;^D

          • Both.


          • I’m kind of ambivalent about the mental health industry. Yeah, as you suggest they’re very much a part of the whole rotten enchilada, but I have also gotten help there when I really needed it. So, for me, they are not all bad.
            Also, my little sister is a practicing shrink, and I know for a fact that she also helps a lot of people who really need it.

          • erte4wt4etrg | Jun 3, 2014 at 11:57 pm |

            I know what you mean, you’re right there are good people inside of it too.

          • It’s refreshing to see a little ambivalence on this site.

          • If you’ve seen the new DSM or followed the controversy surrounding it, then you know that they are getting a big helping hand from big pharma. These kinds of marriages between science and corporations is what is undermining any trust in all fields of science.

        • E.g. institutionalized nihilism, the death of Ontology plus an unspoken collective agenda to eternally advance totalitarian world technology and form a universal U.S. government.

          • Rhoid Rager | Jun 4, 2014 at 2:23 am |

            The death of ontology–i consider this our most pressing problem; or the death of ontological investigations, rather. i’m exploring this very subject in the book i’m writing at the moment. There is a bleak lack of imagination within institutional structures–the materialist nihilism that you mention.

          • Throughout everyday, I wrangle with the existential conundrum of “How do I get out of this hell?” While all around me are contently watching football.

          • “Hell is other people.” – Sartre

            “Myself am hell.” – Milton

          • They are both correct.

        • Rhoid Rager | Jun 4, 2014 at 2:12 am |

          R.D. Laing’s work is sadly marginalized in psychology today. The pharmaceutical approach has become the standard. It stems largely from a materialist, reductionist understanding ‘we’ (so-called ‘experts’) have of ourselves. The social environment we place ourselves in, and the people we surround ourselves with has the largest effect on us. We’re an intimate species, perpetually starved of intimacy. It’s quite tragic when I think about it.

        • overdone | Jun 4, 2014 at 7:49 am |

          So it should be hidden and ignored?

        • mannyfurious | Jun 4, 2014 at 10:45 am |

          I work in the “mental health” field as a therapist. You’re right that the institution of “mental health treatment” is, in the big picture, part of the problem, because of the myth that the source of all emotional wellness resides in the functions of the brain and the brain alone. The effect of the surrounding environment is gravely overlooked, even though I believe most “mental health” issues are the brain and body’s natural response to a sick environment. They are sending messages that we need to get out and/or do something different.

          Still, I think there are smart people in this field, and many of us are able to do fine work. My own personal experience with my depression was that I had to change my entire outlook on life and what my expectations of the world would be. I wasn’t prepared to “drop out” completely, so I had to re-learn how to function in society. I haven’t had a major episode in probably close to five years, although I suffered a prolonged bout with melancholia recently that ended a couple of months ago.

          I bring all of that up only to say that helping people to reorganize their worldview can be quite helpful, but only if we as “mental health” workers recognize that the environment is just as–if not more so–important than brain chemistry.

          • erte4wt4etrg | Jun 4, 2014 at 10:57 am |

            I agree. Good luck with your depression management

          • Rebecca Brandt | Jun 4, 2014 at 2:37 pm |

            Thank you, Manny, for pointing out that the environment we live in has a little something to do with it as well. Juan’s quote–paraphrased–from Krishnamurti applies nicely here.

  2. Hadrian999 | Jun 3, 2014 at 11:31 pm |

    the really great part is becoming a 2nd class citizen if you seek help

    • I guess I’ve been lucky. I’ve sought plenty of help, never experienced the 2nd class thing. No more than usual, anyway.

      • Hadrian999 | Jun 4, 2014 at 12:53 am |

        if you try to get custody of a child it will come up, try to buy a firearm it will come up, these days you have to jump through so many hoops to get a job it probably comes up there too

        • Really, how would my seeking therapy ever come up anywhere?

          • Hadrian999 | Jun 4, 2014 at 8:06 pm |

            a significant other will try to use it to screw you if you have a falling out, and if you don’t pay in cash with a false legend it will be attached to you

          • JamieMehmetril | Jun 6, 2014 at 5:04 am |

            as Thelma
            explained I cannot believe that a stay at home mom can make $7420 in four weeks
            on the internet . more info here R­e­x­1­0­.­C­O­M­

        • In my experience, unless there’s something to be revealed via background check, it’s quite easy to avoid discussing mental health with an employer.

          I’d expect to run into a little more difficulty due to knitting bee associations were I still in Small Town America™.

  3. BuzzCoastin | Jun 4, 2014 at 1:41 am |

    she’s not suffering from depression
    she’s suffering from modernity’s career path
    there’s nothing wrong
    that droping out won’t cure

    Calgary too boot
    a small cow town in the middle of nowhere
    where it snowed in July the last & only time I was there

    • SusieBartlettedo | Jun 4, 2014 at 7:38 am |

      my Aunty
      Allison recently got a nice 6 month old Jaguar by working from a macbook.this website C­a­s­h­d­u­t­i­e­s­.­C­O­M­

  4. Simon Valentine | Jun 4, 2014 at 11:27 am |

    here’s the article explained:

    all animals live on mars.
    humans are animals.
    therefore humans live on mars.

    perfectly valid.

    • Now explain your explanation.

      • Simon Valentine | Jun 4, 2014 at 2:28 pm |

        there’s too much BS to unravel
        but the SF rope isn’t real any more or less than it’s a bleeding illusion cut so long deep wide and continuously that it became as real as the lack of a point as a point you pointed to before you spoke

        • I think I understand what you mean less than when I asked.

          • Simon Valentine | Jun 4, 2014 at 6:09 pm |

            is it depressing or more accurate? sign up today for the free hum-vee and you’re only a few steps away from learning that perhaps it’s a vector, in that it’s more accurate, therefore depressing, because the cheese said so.

            and their motto? the cheese is not the spiff.

          • > is it depressing or more accurate?

            I have no idea.

          • Simon Valentine | Jun 5, 2014 at 10:25 am |

            somehow that that statement is false in a way disparate from both sense and black hole theories isn’t psychology any more or less than it’s literal or anything else and nothing communicated. and here they were saying nothing can’t be communicated while performing “nothing can’t not be communicated”. ray guide you.

          • Whatever.

          • tends to skew towards:
            “more accurate”

            your mileage may vary®

            incidentally, ÿ believe it was the corn said so, not the cheese

            Common Livestock Mistake℠

          • Simon Valentine | Jun 10, 2014 at 12:14 pm |


          • ¡that’s a spicy toblerone!

        • Echar Lailoken | Jun 4, 2014 at 4:48 pm |

          If mars lives on french toast, from whence do the illusions sparkle? Surely a white beard was cooked up chicken egg style as much as toast french kisses!

  5. Rhoid Rager | Jun 4, 2014 at 5:30 pm |

    I let out a laughed when John Cleese says, “Right!” Can’t shake the English way of talking.

  6. Dingbert | Jun 4, 2014 at 8:03 pm |

    Depression: the healthy suspicion that modern life has no meaning and that modern society is absurd and alienating

    (think this was on Disinfo awhile back)

Comments are closed.