In the Rascal Does Not Dream series and movies, we see Kaede Azusagawa struggle with social anxiety and self-acceptance. She constantly compared her present self with her pre-amnesia identity, deeming this “different person” to be better and more beloved by the people around her than she is. While the support from her brother Sakuta, and his girlfriend Mai, gradually helped her come out of her shell, it’s evident that she still had doubts as to whether anyone liked her.
In this movie, a teacher is seen voicing doubts that Kaede would be accepted into her dream high school because of her condition. While the teacher may have been well-meaning, the stigma of Kaede’s mental illness veiled the real person behind, someone who was determined and persevering.
The stigma against mental illness is highly prevalent in Singapore. A person who is stigmatised may experience a spectrum of discriminatory behaviour affecting various aspects of life from employment, relationships and even living options. Often the real person underneath these invisible diseases are intelligent, talented and compassionate individuals. From Statesmen to artist, countless brilliant and warm hearted people who have changed the world has suffered from a mental disorder. Some names include Abraham Lincoln, Issac Newton, Vincent Van Gogh, Winstons Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci.
Unfortunately, often the stigma from others can insidiously cause self-stigma. People with mental illness may assimilate the prejudiced views against them and judge themselves harshly because they are unable to meet the expectations of the norm. Internalised stigma refers to the shame and expectation of discrimination that is felt by individuals suffering from mental illness. This adds on to an already an already debilitating disease, causing the individual to isolate; keeping silent about their struggle and not seeking help.
Internalised stigma can manifest as:
- Feeling inferior because of your illness
- Feelings of shame, disappointment or embarrassment about having an illness
- Blaming yourself for your illness
- Feeling that your illness has ruined your life
- Feeling that no one else can understand what you’re going through
- Feeling that you can’t have a fulfilling life because of your illness
- Worrying that your illness will prevent you from having a career and full-filling life
- Minimising relationships because you see yourself as a burden or inconvenience
When faced with internalised stigma, we can often feel like all is lost. However, there are ways out of this:
- Remember you are more than your mental illness
The way you speak about yourself is a crucial reminder of who you are. For example, instead of saying, “I’m bipolar”, try saying “I have bipolar disorder”. Try writing this in a note to yourself and refer to it whenever you need a reminder.
- Seek support
It’s tempting to isolate yourself because you feel unworthy of others’ time. Remember that there are people you can count on. Confide in trusted friends and family, or reach out to support groups such as Shadee.Care’s online care groups. These groups are designed to be safe spaces where you can ask advice, share your experience and most importantly, be yourself.
- Get treatment
Don’t let the fear of a diagnosis keep you from seeking professional help. It can be a great relief to be heard and learn ways to manage your mental illness and the self stigma.
Need some help, click on image below: