Coping with Mental Illness

Coping with Mental Illness

3 July 2023

Are you, or maybe a loved one, struggling with mental health issues and have a difficult time confiding in friends and family due to the stigma?

Being diagnosed with any disease can be hard, but being diagnosed with a mental illness can be particularly devastating to deal with. You might wonder why this has happened to you or to someone close to you, and how this diagnosis will affect day to day living. But, even more so, how will other people react to the diagnosis?

Truth is people with mental illnesses are challenged doubly. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and often debilitating effects of the disease; on the other hand they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness.

Yes, stigma is one of the most challenging aspects of dealing with a mental health condition. It causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control and prevents many from seeking the help that they desperately need.

Mental illness touches so many lives and yet, it’s still a giant “secret.” A special Sunday Times investigation revealed that 17 million people in South Africa are dealing with depression, substance abuse, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. And yes, studies show that three out of four people with a mental illness have reported that they, or their families, have experienced stigma. So no, remember that you are definitely not alone!

But, how do you move from: “Why me”, to “What now”? Or, how could you help a loved one with a mental illness to take the next step?

Here are a few ways to deal with the stigma of a mental illness:

  • Talk to a mental health practitioner. Don’t let the fear of being labelled with a mental illness prevent you from getting help. If a person close to you suffers from a mental illness, encourage him or her to get professional help. Mental illness is like any other kind of illness -Treatment helps, and people recover sooner when they are treated.
  • Don’t equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. Instead of calling yourself a schizophrenic, say: “I have schizophrenia.”
  • Have hope and remain positive. Be there for loved ones going through this, encourage and support. Safe and effective medications as well as psychosocial treatments are available and newer treatments are being developed. As a result, many individuals with mental illness enjoy productive lives.
  • Accept the diagnosis and learn about the illness. Knowledge is power for the person suffering from a mental illness as well as for loved ones involved. This way you, as well as your family, will have the knowledge to take an active part in treatment decisions.
  • The choice is yours. You can decide who to tell about your mental illness, and what to tell them.
  • Learn to take it one day at a time. Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week, try to focus on today.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to family and friends; people you can trust for the compassion, support and understanding that you need.
  • Join a support group. Finding people who you can relate to is very important in your recovery. They will be supportive of your situation and will give you additional advice on how to deal with prejudice. This is important for loved ones as well; you will need support in dealing with a friend or family member with a mental illness.
  • Eat healthy and remain active. Physical and mental health is interconnected and cannot be separated from each other.
  • Be brave and have the courage to speak up when friends, family, or the media, display false beliefs and negative stereotypes. Whether you or a loved one is suffering from a mental illness, it’s so important to be heard, to give others the courage to move forward.

Remember, a mental illness is not a character flaw. It is caused by genetic, biological, social, and environmental factors. Seeking and accepting help from a professional; whether you or someone close to you are suffering from a mental illness, is a sign of strength, not of weakness. Now Fedhealth members can get mental health support with the Panda app. Get the support you need by clicking here:,,,,,,,,,,,

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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