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The Drawbacks of Living Openly With a Mental Illness

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Although I am open about living with a mental illness, I know there are many others in the mental health field who aren’t. While I believe disclosing a mental illness is a personal choice, some people are not able to share because of potential legal, financial or social ramifications.

I have already explained why I share my experience living with mental illness and the benefits I have received by sharing, but I always wanted to acknowledge the drawbacks of being so public.

1. Stigma 

Stigma is the biggest drawback to being open about living with mental illness. There is a great deal of misconception in the world today about mental illness and a great deal of people, especially those who do not know anyone open with a mental illness, are misinformed about the true nature of mental illness.

2. “That moment” you have to tell others. 

The moment you tell others is another drawback for me. It is always a battle for me to decide if and when to tell a new person in my life about living with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder; I wonder if they will accept me, pity me, judge me, empathize with me or condemn me. I’m also worried they might say one thing and think another.

3. Dealing with people who are not accepting.

People who are not accepting are a huge drawback for me. I have been blessed that most people in my life (family, friends, coworkers) have accepted I live with mental illness, but there are a few people in my life who do not accept it at all and think mental illness is something to hide. They feel that mental illness is not a real illness, that you can just “don’t worry, be happy” and that I’m not trying hard enough.

4. I’m afraid it’ll affect my ability to get a job. 

As I near graduation, another huge drawback has been staring at me — will being public about living with mental illness affect my ability to find employment? Any potential employers can just do a simple Google search and easily find the newspaper article I was in or the YouTube video of my speech at PeaceLove studios. In the mental health field, it is quite acceptable to be in recovery and be a substance use disorder therapist, but it is not as acceptable to have a mental illness and be a licensed therapist.

I’ve been lucky to have an employer right now who accepts I live with mental illness and has been supportive of me sharing my experiences. I hope in the future I’m able to find more employers in the mental health field (and I know there are many out there) with that same attitude.

For me, it has been important to share despite these drawbacks. In fact, I believe these drawbacks will not go away unless more people are open about their mental illness despite the drawbacks they may face.


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Originally published: April 20, 2016
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