Coming Together: 5 Ways We Can Overcome Mental Health and Addiction Stigmas

/Coming Together: 5 Ways We Can Overcome Mental Health and Addiction Stigmas

Living with addiction or mental health stigmas is hard. The same goes for dealing with mental health problems. Both require strength in the face of weakness. If you or a loved one have had to, you understand the challenge. There is a constant fight, on the inside and out. The world may not understand you. Your family may not understand your problems

Sometimes, it all seems to be too much.  What makes it worse is the problems that come from around you. People with mental health problems may seem off-kilter. Addiction can make working harder. There is less forgiveness than there should be. As a result, stigma develops. Stories are often shared about what the bottom of pain looks like.

There are many stories of success in growing past problems, but not as many. The only way to move beyond is to take small steps every day.  One thing that holds many back is the stigma. In this article, we will go into what stigma is. We will also break down how to overcome stigma. Whether it’s mental health or addiction stigma, there is always a way. Together, we can do it.

What Is Stigma?

Stigma reflects how we think and feel about something. It is basically what people think about someone when associated with something viewed as bad.

  • Stigma is flinching when passing a homeless person.
  • Stigma is judging someone in pain because they don’t handle it well.

Stigma is a monster.

  • It eats away at will power
  • It comes in the form of dirty looks.
  • It always feels worse than it is.

Like many monsters, it comes from a place of weakness. Many people who judge addicts and those with mental health problems are afraid. They do not understand or decide not to. Everything that gives you the power to overcome stigma is rooted in being open.

The five ways we believe we can overcome stigma is:

  1. Embrace Positivity
  2. Remove Negativity
  3. Spend Time Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
  4. Share Your Story
  5. Forgive Yourself & Others

Dealing with mental health assumptions means being open. It can be hard because of the harsh assumptions. The questions you may be asked can feel demeaning. They can range from awkward to hurtful.

Many people need to put things in a relatable way. Ignorant people will make comparisons based on what they know. Media has made it normal to think of addicts as criminals. Majority of addicts aren’t like what they see on TV.

Most people with mental disorders are neither John Nash nor Hannibal. There is a need to simplify. “People who are one thing must be this thing” is how they break it down.  So, let’s go into how to break through the stigma to the other side.

Coping With Stigma: Embrace Positivity

Coping with stigma starts with being positive. While it may be tempting to remain negative, it does nothing. At best, it holds you back and kills progress. At worst, you become less and less healthy. Negativity is stressful. Stress wears down on both the body and the mind. 

Positivity isn’t smiling all of the time. It does not mean that sometimes things will get under your skin. It means being able to look past mean comments. It means not reacting to the bad. It also can mean when you do let it get to you; you don’t dwell on it.

Positivity is a small but powerful tool for transforming how your days go. It isn’t an overnight ability. It is more similar to building muscle or willpower. It requires exercising your ability daily. Begin by trying to turn bad thoughts or a bad conversation into a good one.

When you are dealing with someone being rude, offer back positivity.

Addiction Stigma & Removing Negativity

Addiction for many is like a dark tunnel. Whether alcohol addiction or a narcotic addiction, it’s the same. There is a way out, but many never see it. The darkness can represent pain, stress, and some other things. For most, it represents negativity. It keeps many blind to what they can do to change.

Removing negativity means embracing being positive. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. Addiction comes with a lot of social negativity. The health problems that come with it have been long imprinted and shared. Many people may treat you as in worse shape than them because of your choices. It is a cycle that seems never to stop.

This same “health superior” stigma comes in many forms. None of them make sense and could be applied to anyone. People who attack the overweight, or the less physically able are the same kind of people.

It’s important to try and do more while not beating yourself up. Don’t spend too much time dwelling on mistakes or habits.

Handling Social Stigma: Spend Time Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

One of the best things you can do is change your social circle. If you feel like your current social circle isn’t accepting, find like-minded people. There are myriad of groups and ways to find new friends that embrace what you are trying to do. It means that you would be able to stay on a positive path.

But, social stigma can play a role. You shouldn’t feel ashamed, and shouldn’t be treated any different. For instance, the social stigma that someone who is an addict or mentally different is less trustworthy is obviously false. It’s easy to get lost in other people’s viewpoint. It’s important that you remind yourself and show others you aren’t a stereotype.

Share Your Story

The most powerful weapon for overcoming stigma beliefs is to share your story. Stigma assumptions are rooted in being unfamiliar with something. People get stuck in an idea of how they think something is. It can only be changed through seeing a different view.

It doesn’t have to be your deepest darkest secret. Sometimes, all it takes is sharing a moment. A moment when you realized how things needed to be different. It can be as simple as talking at a support group or school. Sharing your story helps to work through it, and challenge other’s ideas.

It also lets you know that the stigma isn’t all there is. Some people will feel connected to your story. They will see in it themselves, or a loved one. Your moment you share could lead to someone else having theirs.

Take One Step Forward Everyday

The various ways stigma impacts us are all different. Some choose not to try and remain stuck. It’s up to you to decide how you want to proceed. In the end, you have to do something. Making mistakes is okay. What isn’t okay, is choosing to do nothing because you are afraid.

Having too many choices and having none can feel the same. The best thing to do is to set goals weekly for how you want to get over something limiting you. It can be changing how you look to make it easier to get a job. It can be working on how you carry yourself or talk. The most powerful stigma that limits those suffering from addiction and mental disorders is that you can’t change. It’s not true, and the best way to change minds is to demonstrate.

Fighting stigma doesn’t mean bowing to it. It means being able to protect yourself from being influenced.

Forgive Yourself & Others

No matter what has happened to this point, everyone makes mistakes. The difference lies in how we move beyond those mistakes. Judging someone based on their past can hurt their future. You must be willing to forgive yourself.

Whether for judging someone else or what you have done. Make an effort to connect with someone who needs your help. Everyone has problems. It’s important to try and help others by filling in the blanks where they can’t.

Forgiveness takes the most strength possible. It means accepting how things are or how they have been. It means moving beyond how people may have treated you. It can also mean shaping how they will treat you in the future.


Stigmas of all types affect everyone. Some deal with how they are treated due to race. Others deal with it based on what they have done or are addicted to. If you allow how stigma affects most people to affect you, you will be at its mercy.

It won’t be automatic, but by trying to embrace these few tips, you will be on your way. We’ve seen what happens when you remove the stigma from how we treat addiction. Shame is not a motivator. It is a paralyzer. It harms people’s ability to progress. For all of us to overcome it, we must examine why it happens. We must look at why we allow ourselves to let it flourish.

How has stigma affected you? What have you done to overcome it? Feel free to leave a comment below.

And remember:

  1. Embrace Positivity
  2. Remove Negativity
  3. Spend Time Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
  4. Share Your Story
  5. Forgive Yourself & Others

Additional Sources




By | 2018-02-18T00:03:26+00:00 February 19th, 2018|

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