Mentally Ill: Scared to Come In or Out!

by Linda Baron-Katz

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Posted by baronkatz
I often ask myself why some people with mental illness are afraid to come in and talk about their experiences even if its among others who also have a mental illness? For example, I run a small peer run group for those with mental illness and found some that do not want to be open even amongst their peers. I thought most mentally ill are afraid of stigma on the outside but never inside. My guess is that they just do not know who they are going to meet even if there are people who suffer from similar diagnoses. Each person has a different history of mental illness, and therefore some may not be on the same level as others with mental illness.

It is understandable that on the outside world, stigma exists because people have lack of knowledge about mental illness and do not want to care or have anything to do with them for selfish reasons. This is why some people with mental illness do not want to go public about it.

I have noticed from my peer run support group how others were not ready to reveal or even talk about their own experiences with the group. It is hard to know what kinds of personalities they have. Some may want to talk about one topic, but others may want to discuss something different. For example, there was one peer in my group who was disturbed by another person in the group and was so sensitive that she wanted to leave, but I convinced her to stay and shifted the topic to something else. This other person almost made her cry and she got more depressed with him around. I had to tell that person if he disrupts the group again, he has to leave. I felt sorry that I did that to him but as a leader I had to assert myself for the other peers that were affected by him. It taught me some lessons about what the group should be about. I learned that not every person with a mental illness can expect others to show the same level of maturity and if some do they are putting stigma on him as if that person was living in the outside world all over again.

As a result, stigma and discrimination are everywhere even amongst your fellow peers. Those with mental illness do not know what to expect when they meet others with it also and that has to change. In order to eliminate the stigma from the outside world, it has to change from within. What better way to start is with your fellow peers.

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