“A bold but necessary move, self-disclosure is a first step toward successfully addressing the stigma associated with being mentally ill”. Steele and Berman, 2001
The stigma which is associated with mental illnesses is one of the most persistent problems individuals face. It prevents treatment, and it impedes recovery. Research has shown that in order to address discrimination and stigma, individuals’ attitudes should improve. Direct contact with persons with mental illnesses beyond labels and myths can make that possible.
For getting to know people with mental illnesses personally, people need to self-disclose or identify that they have received mental health services. Self-disclosure does not hide experiences with mental illness. It finds others with similar experiences and helps others understand mental health issues which may even promote one’s own recovery process. Many people find disclosing their mental illness gratifying, beneficial to their own recoveries, and often helpful to others. It appears that the more open one can be and the more people disclose, the more possible it is to overcome discrimination and stigma in the greater society.
“I’ve asked many of my patients what it has meant for them to know about my history, and there is one consistent and resounding refrain: HOPE!” says a Mental Health Professional
“One is what one is, and the dishonesty of hiding behind a degree, or a title, or any manner and collection of words, is still that: dishonest.” says another professional —Kay Redfield Jamison
Daniel Fisher, M.D writes, “The benefit of disclosure is that it promotes one’s recovery process by allowing one to form or join a self-help group and begin the relationships and conversations needed to reconstruct one’s self-image in a positive light. The more open one can be, the more possible it is to overcome stigma and discrimination in the greater society.”
The purpose of this Introduction to Success Stories is to begin a much-needed conversation on a crucial issue in the lives of people with mental illnesses. The most effective way of countering stigma and discrimination is interpersonal contact. If individuals who receive mental health services are encouraged to share their experiences, particularly one’s mental health issues, it can be enormously helpful and can make the road so much easier for those who are about to tell their stories to a relative, neighbor, friend, colleague, or employer.
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