Healthy New Jersey

New Jersey Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma

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Family and Friends

The Effect of Stigma on Families and Friends Can Be Overwhelming

As individuals living with mental illness experience the full brunt of the disease, their loved ones experience it right along with them. Denial, anger, fear, and sadness are just part of the emotional roller coaster. Clinical care that engages the participation and commitment of supportive family members and friends can reap positive outcomes. Both groups can offer great insight about the individuals, and this insight is invaluable to care teams when choosing the best course of action foe each person. It is also important to remember that families and friends need support, guidance, and education as their loved ones with mental illness work towards achieving wellness and recovery.

Most People Believe that Mental Illness Is Rare and Happens to Other People

That misdirected thinking is easily debunked by the fact that an estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in any given year. In fact, mental disorders are common and widespread. Unfortunately, most families are not prepared to cope with the acknowledgment and aftermath of mental illness. They not only have to deal with the manifestation of the disease; they also have to deal with the pain and isolation of stigma. The journey is physically and emotionally trying, with all concerned left vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others.

Journeys of Families Dealing with Mental Illness Can Be Long and Challenging

External stigma is a challenge; however, it can be even more devastating when it comes from within. Self-stigmatization can cause individuals to keep family members at a distance, in part, because of misplaced feelings of shame. Someone with diabetes or cancer is less likely to experience that shame and, therefore, more receptive to the support of loved ones. In spite of the love and bonds that existed before the illness manifested, families and friends who have been negatively influenced by societal stigma as it pertains to mental illness sometimes shun the individuals with mental illness. The consequences of this kind of rejection and isolation can be heartbreaking, especially when the individuals are in such a fragile state.

You Are Not Alone

Family and friends often take a back seat to the illness, which leaves them feeling helpless and forgotten. Stigma prevents them from talking about the illness to other family members, friends, colleagues, and clergy. When loved ones embrace and share their experiences, they strengthen their coping mechanisms. There is a multitude of resources that offer support and services for families and friends in communities all across New Jersey.

YouTube Public Service Announcements

Children's System of Care Public Service Announcement (intended for parents):

1.       60 second format in English and Spanish

2.       30 second format in English and Spanish

3.       15 second format in English and Spanish

Youth Suicide Prevention Public Service Announcement (intended for youth):

1.       60 second format in English and Spanish

2.       30 second format in English and Spanish

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