Question each thought you have no matter how creative or logical it seems in the moment. If you were feeling good in this moment, would you be having these thoughts?
2. Get busy doing something else. Now.
Remind yourself that whatever you feel like doing in this moment can wait a day. This isn’t about not defending yourself. It’s about recognising that when you are depressed or anxious you are vulnerable and/or prone to impulsivity and doing things you later regret. Your priority has to be good self-care.
So don’t send the person a ranting email about how ignorant they are, or declaring you never want to see them again, or send 100 articles on how to handle depressed people. And definitely don’t contact everyone you both know to ‘set the record straight’.
Instead, try something like the following to delay taking action:
change environments (even if it’s just a fake toilet break)
start a physical task that requires full attention
engage in a banal conversation with someone you don’t know too well
blast music and sing along (dance along too, even better)
go for a walk and practice deep breathing as you go
One person, not calling everyone in your phone and talking for hours. Stigma is horrible. But making a drama out of this will make you feel worse and not better, and the idea is to practise extreme self-care right now.
Choose a person you know is safe for you and you can trust and who understands your mental health issue well.
If you don’t have someone like this available in your life, call a hotline.
It doesn’t make you weird or crazy to use a mental health hotline. It just makes you a human having a temporary hard time.
In the UK, you can call the Good Samaritans. Also consider online forums for depression and anxiety where other people who have been through what you have will rally about you.
4. Let as much time pass as you can bear to.
In a few days, the world might feel a better place. You might be having a better day and feeling stronger (or not. That’s okay, too). That person might still not understand your upset, or might still judge you, but you might not care as much.
It’s also possible that that person who belittled you was acting from fear, and will experience a change of heart. They might have gone and done some research about mental health.
Don’t have expectations, but know that you can’t predict future. If you react immediately to anxiety and depression stigma, life and other people have no room to surprise you.
5. Don’t talk to him or her if you don’t want to.
Many people who experience mental health issues are very sensitive, caring people who worry about hurting other people’s feelings and doing the right thing.
But if the idea of talking to the person who judged your mental health makes you feel very stressed, it’s just not worth it.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation until you are ready, and you don’t owe anyone an education. It’s not your job to set the record straight on mental health. But you do owe yourself a fighting chance to keep going the best way you can.
Of course if you experience mental health stigma at work, it’s a different situation. In this case try to talk only about work issues, and avoid them as possible.
Even the royal family are talking about mental health issues nowadays. Take comfort in the fact that the other person is the weirdo here, for not understanding mental health concerns.
8. Respond only if and when you are ready.
When time has passed and you are feeling calm, and you’d like to share with the other person how you felt about their judgements about your mental health, it’s of course well within your rights.
It’s an idea to practice what you plan to say with that trusted friend, just to be sure that you are not about to self-sabotage and upset yourself. And emails can be an easier option, meaning you can include links to useful information about depression and anxiety.
9. Seek professional support if you haven’t already.
Feeling shamed about your mental health can trigger old issues. If you were in therapy but haven’t been lately, and this experience leaves you feeling spiralling or out-of-control in a way that worsens or doesn’t change after several weeks, reach out for support.
What if it’s at my work place and the stigma comes from my boss?
It’s a hard situation to be in, but it is discrimination and you do have rights. Learn more about these rights at the website of the UK charity Time to Change.
Need to talk to someone about depression and/or anxiety? Harley Therapy connects you with friendly, highly experienced psychotherapists and counselling psychologists in central London locations, or worldwide via Skype counselling.
Want to share an experience of depression stigma with our readers? Or have a question? Use the public comment box below.