Mental health stigma is a widespread issue that affects everyone, regardless of their background. This can include the negative attitudes and beliefs we hold towards ourselves, as well as the ones imposed on us by society and loved ones. Expert mental health therapist Stephanie Gilbert, LMFT takes us through the four major reasons why people face internalized stigma and how we can deal with it.
Picture credits: Kate Haus, photographer from Los Angeles
“Simply put, internalized stigma is stigma turned inward,” Stephanie explained. “It may show up as invalidating one’s own experience, minimizing symptoms, refusing the need for treatment, or expecting one’s recovery to go much quicker than could be expected.”
Like external stigma, internalized or self-stigma can negatively impact a person’s quality of life and overall health. According to Stephanie, it can reduce your self-worth and make you feel less valuable than others.
Discussing the root cause, Stephanie suggests four issues that perpetuate internalized stigma and explains how to deal with them.
Promotion of Misinformation:
Social media is often a platform for misunderstandings, judgment, and generalizations regarding mental health. It’s easy to jump to conclusions at face value than to delve into the facts and understand more deeply. People often promote content based on misconceptions that can hurt those already facing stigma.
Solution: Work to promote content that is appropriate, accurate, and comprehensive when it comes to mental health issues. Educate yourself first and express understanding towards others’ experiences without judgment or invalidation.
Unfortunate as it is, family and friends can also contribute to stigma. It could be passive comments that negate a person’s experience or simply not understanding the severity of mental health issues.
According to Stephanie, sometimes, due to a lack of education or information, family or friends shape our beliefs, and what loved ones say also tends to stick in our minds as something credible when it’s not.
Solution: Stephanie suggests discussing openly with family and friends about your experience. It is important to educate those around us; however, it’s also important to remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your mental health journey. If a conversation doesn’t feel safe or valid, refrain from further discussion.
Societal Perception and Access to Care:
Society can also influence how we view our mental health. We are often told to “suck it up” or “get over it.” Such negative societal attitudes toward mental health can make it difficult for individuals to seek treatment, and they may feel ashamed or invalidated.
Accessibility to therapeutic services is another issue that creates an obstacle to seeking care, as affordability and availability are significant challenges.
Solution: Speak up and advocate for mental health. Support mental health awareness organizations that offer therapy and support groups. One such example is Stephanie’s private practice telehealth group, Stephanie Gilbert and Associates, which provides mental health services with a sliding scale, offers therapy in a variety of languages, and gives free resources on the practice’s website and social media. Her group provides therapy in Spanish, Russian, and Chinese to meet their patients’ linguistic and cultural needs.
Lack of Information:
Sometimes, we are unaware of our mental health issues or the resources available. We lack the knowledge and awareness of how to get help, treat our condition, or even understand it. According to Stephanie, “We don’t know what we don’t know,” and this is one of the primary reasons why people don’t seek out help.
Solution: Stephanie suggests that you learn about mental health by reading and talking to professionals. And if you want to gain more insight into your own experiences, you can also join online communities, support groups, or forums and connect with others who share similar struggles.
In this regard, Stephanie is making great strides through her Instagram channel to disseminate reliable insights. She provides useful content on mental health topics in order to reduce internalized stigma through education and awareness.
As a Beck Institute CBT Certified Clinician specializing in CBT and EMDR trained, Stephanie advises people struggling with internalized stigma to seek therapy, increase self-awareness, and have more meaningful conversations about mental health with their loved ones. By understanding the root causes of emotional distress and how it impacts us, we can create a safe environment for ourselves and others.
Follow Stephanie on Instagram or check out her website for more helpful advice on maintaining mental health.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.