Stigma and self-harm

There is a huge stigma associated with mental illness. Of living with a diagnosis such as borderline personality disorder. There are a lot of misperceptions.

We have riots and demonstrations when the “n-word” is used and rightfully so. The term is offensive to me and abusive to the recipient. It is the terminology of hate. Which in my mind has no place in today’s society-it comminucates hatred of those who are perceived as being different. Ironic that whites are going to eventually be in the minority. What that is is short-sighted, amongst other things.

However, if you call someone a “psycho” or “mental” no one cares. It is business as usual. Because it is a mental health issue, it is considered socially acceptable. Why else would it continue? With no understandable outrage over it, the message sent when no one reacts serves to reinforce that same stigma. I feel calling someone mental or a psycho is hateful and mean, and just as abusive to the recipient as is the n-word. And it is equally as offensive as the n-word.

The stigma of mental illness is the negative views associated with the terminology of mental health (Mayo Clinic, 2017). And it has far reaching consequences. Some of them include:

Some of the harmful effects of stigma can include:

  • “Reluctance to seek help or treatment
  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others
  • Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment
  • Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness treatment
  • The belief that you’ll never succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation”

(Mayo Clinic, 2017)

And as I recently found out when trying to purchase mortgage protection insurance and life insurance, no one wants to sell you that either.

A FD is a severe form of self-harm. And self-harm has an even greater stigma associated with it. And non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) can trigger a vicious cycle of negative consequences that include low self-esteem, economic consequences (job loss or not being hired), and social distancing-it is these consequences that cause the individual with NSSI increased stress which puts them at increased risk of using NSSI as a coping mechanism (Burke, Piccinilo, Moore-Berg, Alloy, & Heimberg, 2019). And this stigma can also cause the above consequences, such as making it difficult to seek help when someone has an episode.

I know it kept me from admitting the truth for many years. Which kept me from seeking help and developing coping strategies. I am not convinced that self-harm is completely a conscious decision, as the literature on FD’s states. Why is that? You must make a conscious decision to stop. And even then, it doesn’t happen overnight.

A considerable amount of literature exists that links NSSI to addiction. I know the last time (a year ago) that I had a craving for it, it was so strong I had to do something. It did not feel like a choice. Instead of seeking unnecessary treatment, I called an advice line. Seems stupid when academically, I am qualified to be answering those calls. But it kept me from following through. My addiction to medical treatment extended to procedures (no unnecessary ones for over 5 years), medical testing and seeking unnecessary medications and other treatments.

When I think about it, it seems like the definition of insanity. But I have seen how my own brother looks at what I was doing with disgust. Time heals, right? I’m not so sure. But self-harm feels like a double-whammy as far as stigma goes.

And what is so stupid about the stigma on mental illness? All mental means, is that you are a human being. No reactions to life evens such as death of a loved one, marriage or divorce, being assaulted with depression or anxiety, or other mood symptoms, would be something I would worry about. Having a mental reaction to stress is normal. One should not be denied health coverage for treatment of it if needed or life insurance for that matter for reacting to life as a human being. The message that sends, is my life is less valuable because I have a mental illness. No one is denied health coverage because of race (as far as I know). Sadly, that is not how life works.

Black lives matter. ALL lives matter!!!


Burke, T.A., Piccirillo, M.L., Moore-Berg, S.L., Alloy, L.B., & Heimberg, R.G. (2019) The stigmatization of non-suicidal self-injury; Journal of Clinical Psychology; 75(3); 481-498; Retrieved from:

Mayo Clinic (2017); Mental health: overcoming the stigma of mental illness. Retrieved from:

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