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If you have a mental health problem, you may worry about what other people will think of you. In many cases, no one can even tell if you are struggling with symptoms. But sometimes the fear that someone can tell is enough to cause concern. Mental health problems can include
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD),
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and
You have a say in how others see you. The way you act and treat
others can help influence people's attitudes toward you and toward mental
People sometimes have negative views about
things they don't understand, such as mental health problems. This is
Because of stigma, others may look down on you.
Some people may believe things about mental health problems that aren't true.
Other people may have good intentions but still feel uncomfortable when they
find out you have a mental health problem. This can make people treat you and
your family differently.
Stigma occurs when others:
You may feel shame or guilt about having a mental health
problem. You may not want an employer or even your friends to know. This is
called "self-stigma," and it can keep you from getting treatment or finding
Respecting yourself is an
important part of your recovery. Don't let guilt or shame keep you from getting
help. You can reach goals that are important to you even if you have a mental
Your attitude and actions can influence what
others think. Be honest with people, and show them who you really are. When you
help people understand your mental health problem, they are more likely to get
past their negative views.
Here are some ways you can help others
better understand mental health problems.
For most people, work is an important part
of their lives and identities. Having a job helps you feel better about
yourself and your future. It gives you a chance to connect with others. Work
also provides needed income, and it gives you a chance to learn and grow as a
Because of stigma about mental health problems, some
employers may have concerns about hiring you. This can make it harder for you
to get the job you want. Think about the benefits and harms of telling an employer if you have PTSD. If you need special accommodations, then you probably need to tell your employer. For example, if you need to leave in the middle of the day for an appointment. Ask for advice and support from your mental health
care team. They can help you see the benefits or downside of talking about your
problem with an employer.
If you have a job already, you may feel
stressed or nervous at work. Or you may be worn out or tired. Getting treatment
for your symptoms will help improve your ability to work.
communities have resources, such as local job services, that can help you find
a job and be successful at it. Community services include:
cities have a local job service, employment office, or state health and welfare
office. These organizations can help you get work or find a place to live. You
can find information about these services in the phone book or on the
Your doctor or a local church also may be able to
connect you with services that can help. Your doctor may refer you to a social
worker or case manager who can help you find a place to live. You may be able
to find the training and support you need to get and keep a job. You may also
find programs through your mental health care team.
Substance abuse, which is common with some mental
health problems, may make your life harder. If you have this problem, talk
to your doctor about getting drug or alcohol treatment.
sometimes lose your temper or harm others, talk with people about it. Your
health care team and family can help you. Drug and alcohol use also may lead to
actions that can harm you or others and/or result in jail time, so avoid them. If you have a drug or
alcohol problem, get help.
If you or
your loved one is in jail and has a mental health problem, make sure the staff
members know about the problem. They may have services that can help. Support
also may be available when you or your loved one is released from jail.
People with mental health problems also are more likely to be victims of
crime. Ask a trusted family member, friend, or health professional to help you
if you are a victim of a crime.
People with mental health problems
have the same rights as other citizens. For example, you have the right to vote
and to take part in legal agreements, such as marriage, divorce, and business
ventures. Most states and many health care groups have a bill of rights for
people with mental health problems. These rights include the right to privacy
(or confidentiality) with respect to your illness and treatment plan and the
right to treatment that places the fewest possible restrictions on your
People with mental health problems sometimes have
symptoms that make decision making hard. It's good to prepare legal documents
to help in case this happens. It's best to do this when you have few or no
For more information, see the topic
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
January 13, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Jessica Hamblen, PhD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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