Is Stigma Derailing Your Mental Health Goals?

Is Stigma Derailing Your Mental Health Goals?

A Forbes article from 2019 cites that 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail, sharing a number of reasons why that happens.1 When it comes to your mental health goals, can stigma be one of the things derailing your resolutions? We’re nearing the end of this first month into the new year, and I know many people will be evaluating how they’re doing with their resolutions, so I wanted to take a look at this topic.

Setting Mental Health Goals and How Stigma Impacts Them

A survey by Verywell Mind in December 2020 found that 40% of their readers were planning to set goals for the new year that included their mental health. 2 In the height of my struggles with depression, anxiety, and excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, I would make resolutions centred around my mental health, too, and plan for how I would do better, be better, and overall get better in the new year.

Considering that 80% statistic Forbes mentioned, it’s clear that keeping a New Year’s resolution is difficult to begin with, and I think that stigma does play a role in derailing the goals we set for our mental health. Mental health stigma can have many negative impacts, including isolating people from getting help, causing deep shame, and more. There’s one part of stigma that I feel factors into this conversation specifically, and that’s the sentiment of not trying hard enough.

The thing with goals of any sort is that we want quick results to feel like we’re progressing. When we don’t see that quick progress, we can start to feel down on ourselves, and that’s something I struggled with, too. In those times, it could feel like I must not have been trying hard enough to reach the level of better that I sought.

« Not trying hard enough » is a staple of mental health stigma. No matter how hard you may actually be trying, if there’s not a marked difference in your mental well-being, then stigma says you’re not putting in the right amount of effort. That, in turn, can make it difficult to want to continue trying to meet goals because it can feel like you’re not cut out for it.

Looking at it from that perspective, it’s a manifestation of self-stigma, but this sense of not trying hard enough can come from external stigma, too. Maybe it’s someone close to you who makes you feel like you should be trying harder, or, in the age of social media, maybe it’s a cruel comment from a stranger online. Whether it’s self-stigma or stigma from an outside source, this can have a big impact on how you move forward.

Progress Is Not Linear: Don’t Let Stigma Derail your Mental Health Goals

The biggest piece of advice I have for handling your mental health goals and preventing stigma from derailing them is to remember that recovery or even making progress isn’t a linear process and happens at your own pace. It’s okay if you’re on a slower pace. It’s even okay if you’ve had setbacks while working toward your goals. Flawlessly navigating your mental health goals isn’t realistic, nor is it necessary. You can still start again or pick up where you left off.

Don’t let stigma derail your mental health goals and tell you that you’re not trying hard enough. What you’re doing is great, and I’m here cheering you on.

 

Sources

  1. Caprino, K., « The Top 3 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Fail And How Yours Can Succeed. » Forbes. December 21, 2019.
  2. Fielding, S., « Are You Making a New Year’s Resolution This Year? Readers Weigh In. » Verywell Mind. December 23, 2020.

Author: Laura A. Barton

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