My Culture & Stigma

The following is an excerpt from a paper that I wrote for graduate school titled “My Cultural Background.”

One aspect of our culture that sadly still exists is the stigma of mental illness. I suffered from depression and anxiety my junior and senior year of high school (and several years after), and I noticed that the way that some people treated me changed once I told them my diagnosis. I even lost friends because of it; I don’t think they knew what to do or say around me anymore. According to a study done regarding mental illness stigma and rejection, “the most stigmatizing mental illnesses appear to be those that people perceive to be dangerous, uncommon, and the sufferer’s own fault” (Feldman & Crandall, 2007). I think it can be easy for people to see depression and anxiety as things that are “the sufferer’s own fault” and to not understand that you can’t just snap out of it. The study also said that “stigma may detrimentally affect mental ill individuals’ self-concepts” (Feldman and Crandall, 2007)” On a similar note, a study that was done about microaggressions and mental illness said that “perceived stigmatization can potentially increase the likelihood of the internalization of stigma, which can in turn impact psychiatric symptom severity and important outcomes such as hope, self-esteem, and empowerment” (Gonzales, Davidoff,  Nadal, & Yanos, 2015). Being treated differently by those few people because of my struggles definitely did not help my self-esteem and even made me feel like there was actually something wrong with me. There were five major themes of microaggressions listed (taken from focus groups involved in the study), and they were “invalidation, assumption of inferiority, fear of mental illness, shaming of mental illness, and second class citizen” (Gonzales et al., 2015). The study noted that one specific type of microaggression was one “in which the experiential reality of persons with mental illness is invalidated, such as when others act as though the person is simply exaggerating obstacles that everyone experiences” (Gonzales et al., 2015). I experienced that type of microaggression several times, and it was extremely frustrating and invalidating. I know that many other people have had experiences similar to mine but even at a higher level because our society sometimes has issues with people who are “different” and who look or behave in ways that differ from the “norm.”

Author: Lauren M.


Feldman, D. B., & Crandall, C. S. (2007). DIMENSIONS OF MENTAL ILLNESS

STIGMA: WHAT ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS CAUSES SOCIAL REJECTION? Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26(2), 137-154. Retrieved from

Gonzales, L., Davidoff, K. C., Nadal, K. L., & Yanos, P. T. (2015). Microaggressions

experienced by persons with mental illnesses: An exploratory study. PsychiatricRehabilitation Journal, 38(3), 234-241. doi:10.1037/prj0000096

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