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Finding Support in Mental Health Recovery

Finding Support in Mental Health Recovery

Healing happens when people become more open about problems and challenges

According to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), each year 11.4 million American adults suffer from mental illness severe enough to affect daily functioning. Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that mental illness accounts for more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.

The majority of Americans who suffer from mental health disorders never get treatment. Many allow their conditions to go untreated because they fear stigmatization. For example, they worry that if people find out about their depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, they will be viewed in negative ways. Their fears are well founded, says the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Despite medical advances and better scientific understanding of brain health, American society has not yet completely shed outmoded prejudices against people who struggle with mental disorders. This creates barriers to treatment for people struggling with mental health issues who would rather deny their need than face their fears. Getting support does not have to be frightening or expose you to judgment. If you or a loved one in San Diego is struggling with a mental health issue, there are plenty of ways to get help and find support. To learn how, read on.

First Step: Identify Barriers in Your Way

In order to keep fears of stigmatization from hindering your growth, you must first understand what it is and where it originates. Discrimination against mentally ill people takes many forms, both direct and indirect. Joking around about conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder, for example, is one. People who would never make jokes about cancer victims out of respect for the suffering that victims endure, may not think twice before making flip remarks about a mental health diagnosis or treatment. This is a form of direct stigmatization; mentally ill individuals deserve the same respect for their struggles as people who suffer from physical maladies. Unintentional discrimination happens in more subtle ways, usually by shunning people with mental illness or believing stereotypes and assuming they are unstable, violent or dangerous.

Like other groups that experience discrimination, people with mental illness are shaped in some way and to varying degrees by the society in which they live. Harmful consequences of being marginalized can include the following:

  • Loneliness and lack of understanding by family, friends and co-workers
  • Fewer career opportunities
  • Less social involvement
  • Difficulty obtaining health insurance

Isolation is one hurtful result to come from discrimination and stigmatization. Fearing other people’s opinions can make it seem easier to withdraw and isolate yourself. But lack of support and connection can exacerbate conditions such as anxiety and depression, among others. Feelings of futility and apathy can quickly set in, cutting individuals off from needed resources and encouragement.

An Open Dialog: Steps Toward Solution

Healing happens when people become more open about problems and challenges. For instance, recovery from drug and alcohol addiction used to be a taboo topic. Today, people share stories and find strength in numbers. As a result, more people ask for help at early stages of addiction than ever before. Signs of the same openness and growing acceptance are starting to crop up in the mental illness arena. For example, as compared to years past more children receive early intervention and diagnosis for issues such as autism and Asperger’s Syndrome than any other time in history.

An open dialog with appropriate people creates a hopeful climate, allowing individuals to obtain accurate information and understand that a mental illness is treatable once diagnosed accurately. Interpersonal connections are even bigger benefits that result from sharing. To get the help you need, it is helpful to talk about the things that are troubling you. That is where joining a support group comes in. Joining a community of people who share your journey—or can relate to your problems, at the very least—will help you feel less isolated. A support group can also provide a place for you to go when managing your mental illness seems like an uphill battle you cannot win. Studies reveal that other benefits of joining a support group include a reduction in stress levels, depression, anxiety and sleep troubles, say doctors who work for the Mayo Clinic.

As you reach out to create a more supportive environment for yourself, keep a few things in mind. Discretion is essential. There is no need for you to allow stigmatization to force you into denial about your illness. Nor should you hide the truth from significant people in your life, a response that can make you feel like an imposter and heighten a sense of alienation. At the same time, use good judgment. Share selectively, making sure the people you confide in have given you reasons to trust them. Go slow, resisting the urge to tell your whole story at once. Protect yourself by being wise and selecting the very best support you can find because you know you are worth it.

Getting Help for Mental Illness

If you or a loved one in San Diego is struggling with mental illness, call our toll-free helpline today. Admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions and help you find the resources and treatment you need to recover. Don’t go it alone. Please call today.