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How to Cope With Negative Reaction from Others on your Mental Illness

Negative Reaction from Others on your Mental Illness

Despite the recent positive representation of mental health in the news and campaigns such as Every Mind Matters, there is still much stigma associated with mental illness.

If you have a mental health challenge, the last thing you need to cope with is negative reactions from other people. This kind of response often goes beyond the traditional ‘pull yourself together’ comment by a family member or friend or the all too common reaction that your mental health issue is somehow your fault.

How to deal with mental illness stigma

Is It Your Fault People React This Way?

The answer to this is simple, and it’s: No.
You are not responsible for the reaction someone has to your mental illness. In most circumstances, unfortunately, it’s not the fault of the person who has an adverse reaction either. There can be a range of different reasons why someone has difficulty understanding or coping with mental health challenges. It might just be a lack of understanding, or they have trouble facing difficult problems such as this. Assigning blame to the person who has a negative reaction, unfortunately, doesn’t generally help either.

Mental Health Stigma

Mental health stigma is a negative attitude towards people with mental illness. It can manifest as stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. Stigma can prevent people from seeking help for mental health problems, and it can also make it difficult for people to recover.

There are many different types of mental health stigma. Some common stereotypes about people with mental illness are:
  • They are violent or dangerous.
  • They are lazy or unmotivated.
  • They are weak or not as smart as other people.
  • They are a burden to their families and friends.
These stereotypes can lead to prejudice, which is a negative attitude toward a group of people. Prejudice can manifest as discrimination, which is when people treat others differently because of their mental illness. Discrimination can take many forms, including:
  • Avoiding or excluding people with mental illness.
  • Denying people with mental illness jobs, housing, or other opportunities.
  • Treating people with mental illness unfairly in the legal system.
Mental health stigma can have a number of negative consequences. It can:
  • Prevent people from seeking help for mental health problems.
  • Make it difficult for people to recover from mental illness.
  • Increase the risk of suicide.
  • Lead to social isolation and loneliness.
  • Damage people's self-esteem.

Why Some People Show Negative Reactions to Mental Illness

For many people, mental illness is a big unknown. It’s not like cancer or a heart condition where you can immediately understand what it is. People can often show negative reactions to mental illness simply because they are unsure of what to do next or how to provide support.

They might be frightened and not particularly confident. They may even have had mental health issues themselves but don’t want to get involved again because it brings back too many bad memories.

Some people are just ill-informed. They conflate depression with feeling down. They see anxiety issues as a sign of weakness.

Mental health can be a really difficult thing to address, and it’s often much easier to turn away rather than try to help. In some cases, if a mental health problem is persistent, as many are, the person can lose patience or get tired of having this problem ‘on their plate.’

What To Do If You Have a Negative Reaction

There’s no doubt a negative reaction, whatever its reason for existing, is likely to have a huge impact on someone with mental illness. It’s almost the last thing you want to deal with when you are also struggling to cope with the emotional and physical impact of your condition.

So what can you do to cope with negative reactions from others to your mental illness?

Firstly we need not to take it personally. That can be a hard thing to do if you are struggling with a problem such as depression or anxiety or any other mental health challenge.

It can also be tiring explaining yourself or your condition to people. While they will usually understand the pain that comes with a broken bone or a heart problem, they can be less comfortable with a mental health issue that, for example, stops you from going out in public or leaves you sitting on the sofa unable to cope with life.

Almost all people with mental health challenges will come across individuals who are negative and unsupportive. For you, this could be a person at work, a boss, a family member, or simply a friend. Unfortunately, you can’t expect everyone to support you and be understanding.

Surround yourself, however, with people who do understand what you are going through. That’s why support groups are so essential in coping with mental health problems. Especially if the negative response is coming from someone close to you, you must have that support group, however big or small, behind you. It can help you find solutions and better handle that negative reaction so that it doesn’t impact your illness and give you some positive tools to cope.

To sum up

Mental illness is a topic that many people are still not comfortable talking about. People often make assumptions about how it will affect the person with the mental illness and their family. They might feel pity or disbelief. But it is important to remember that these reactions come from a place of ignorance and lack of understanding.

Keep in mind the following tips that can help you cope with negative reactions from others to your mental illness:
  • You do not need to prove anything to anyone
  • Be patient with people who don't understand what you're going through
  • Find someone who understands and can be there for you. You may also join a support group
  • Don't neglect your treatment


How can I cope with negative reactions without getting overwhelmed?

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, it is important to prioritize self-care, seek support from like-minded individuals, and set clear boundaries. Remember to engage in activities that bring you joy and practice relaxation techniques.

What if my loved ones don't understand my mental illness?

Educate your loved ones about your mental illness and its impact on your life. Share informative resources, invite them to therapy sessions, or encourage open conversations about mental health. Patience and understanding are key.

How do I respond to hurtful comments about my mental illness?

Take a deep breath and respond calmly, focusing on educating the person rather than retaliating. Use "I" statements to express how their comments make you feel and provide factual information about mental health to challenge any misconceptions.

What can I do if negative reactions affect my self-esteem?

Engage in self-care activities, surround yourself with supportive individuals, and practice self-compassion to boost your self-esteem.

Is it okay to distance myself from people who react negatively to my mental illness?

Setting boundaries is essential for your well-being, and distancing yourself from toxic individuals can be necessary.

How can I support a friend or family member who is dealing with negative reactions?

Offer a listening ear, provide emotional support, and educate yourself about their condition to better understand their perspective.

What if I need additional support beyond self-help strategies?

If self-help strategies are not sufficient, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Mental health professionals can provide specialized guidance and support tailored to your specific needs, helping you navigate challenges more effectively.


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