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Understanding Stigmas and Being a Safe Person

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

Stigmas and a Safe Person

Outreach & Volunteer Advocate, Kendra Kaul

Stigma impacts so many people in so many ways and we feel worried about how people see us or may judge us. People can face external stigma perception or internally, by judging ourselves.

Types of Stigmas:

- Public stigma: happens when the public endorses negative stereotypes and prejudices, resulting in discrimination against people with mental health conditions.

- Self-stigma: happens when a person with mental illness or substance-use disorder internalizes public stigma.

- Perceived stigma: the belief that others have negative beliefs about people with mental illness. Label avoidance: when a person chooses not to seek mental health treatment to avoid being assigned a stigmatizing label. Label avoidance is one of the most harmful forms of stigma.

- Stigma by association: occurs when the effects of stigma are extended to someone linked to a person with mental health difficulties. This type of stigma is also known as "courtesy stigma" and "associative stigma."

- Structural stigma: institutional polices or other societal structures that result in decreased opportunities for people with mental illness are considered structural stigma.

- Health practitioner stigma: this takes place any time a health professional allows stereotypes and prejudices about mental illness to negatively affect a patient's care.

Rejecting or overcoming stigma is one of the keys for those people living with mental illness. It is not an easy task, but it is becoming more possible and a bit easier as more and more people speak out about their mental health conditions. According to many studies, effectively reducing stigma pointed to one intervention: contact with someone successfully managing a mental illness. Other ways to help fight stigma include: being able to talk openly about mental health, educating yourself and others, be conscious of your language, encourage equality between physical and mental illness, show compassion for those with mental illness, choose empowerment over shame, be honest about treatment, let the media know when they are being stigmatizing, and don't harbor self-stigma.

Being a safe person to someone means that you support that person no matter what. You may be the only person who knows their whole story. Some characteristics of being a safe person include: they listen first, they validate their feelings, they help you grow, they don't tell you how you should feel or think, they stay neutral when you need them to, they are patient, they don't judge, they keep their word, they let you drop your guard by letting you express and process your feelings and thoughts, they tell you the truth, they don't try to fix you, they can empathize, they allow for silence, and they assert their own needs and boundaries.


Southwest Wisconsin Community Action Program "Understanding Stigma and Being a Safe Person"

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