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Stigma and Friendship

By Barry Hurley, Mental Health Advocate, April 2017

Imagine your life stops for two weeks then starts again. Nothing has changed, except, you have been told you have schizoaffective disorder.

What do you tell your family? What do you tell your friends? You might consider telling your boss, but what if everyone at work finds out? Serious questions may be raised about your abilities. You might be seen as unreliable. How must that feel? If you tell someone that could be the first thing they think of each time they meet you. Common reactions from people diagnosed with mental illness include:

Shame: ‘I hope no one finds out’

Terror: ‘What will happen to me now?’

Grief: ‘My life is over.’

Disbelief: ‘It must be a mistake.’

Anger: ‘Why me? It’s not fair’

Fear of isolation: ‘No one will want to know me now’

Mental illness can be a very disempowering, isolating and lonely experience. So, during Green Ribbon Month, don’t let people be isolated and alone. Be a friend – because:

‘When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state, 
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate, 
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, 
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, 
With what I most enjoy contented least; 
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state, 
Like to the lark at break of day arising 
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.’

(William Shakespeare, Sonnet 29)

So, be there. Reach out. Don’t let anyone be alone. That someone could be you