If you live with borderline personality disorder (BPD), you’ll know it comes with its own set of challenges. However, it’s important to remember that you can definitely live a full and meaningful life with BPD.
Unfortunately, there’s research that shows there’s more stigma associated with BPD than with most other mental health conditions and that stigma can come from both mental health practitioners and the general public.
Stigma can negatively affect the mental health of stigmatised populations (such as those with BPD) and stop them from getting the help they need. It’s important to understand why stigma is damaging, and know how to deal with any stigma you may face.
What is ‘stigma’?
Stigma is when someone sees you in a certain way because of your mental health condition. Stigma can be a result of myths, misunderstanding, ignorance and negative attitudes toward people living with mental health conditions. It can result in you being treated as somehow less than other people because of your symptoms, distress, or diagnosis.
Experiencing stigma can range from irritating to debilitating. At the more severe end, some people find it hinders their recovery and stops them from getting the help they need. If stigma leads to prejudice and discrimination, it can make your mental health worse. Stigma can also negatively impact your self-esteem and make you feel embarrassed or ashamed about your diagnosis.
But the good news is that everyone has the power to challenge stigma.
How do I deal with stigma against BPD?
If you experience stigma against BPD, you need to first make sure you are okay and have the support you need. Don’t let stigma stop you from getting treatment or professional help.
Here are six ways to deal with stigma against BPD:
1. Remember that stigma comes from ignorance
Stigma against BPD comes from a lack of understanding or prejudice. Remembering this can help the stigma from feeling so personal – their negative views say more about them than you.
2. Know that you are not your diagnosis
If someone injured their foot, they would be seen as having an injured foot, not being an injured foot. It’s the same with mental health conditions. You are a person who happens to have a BPD diagnosis. You have so many good qualities and deserve to be seen for who you are as a whole person.
3. Speak up against negative stereotypes (if you feel safe to do so)
When you hear someone speaking negatively or spreading false information about BPD, speak up with the facts (if you feel safe and comfortable to do so). ).
It’s okay to firmly say ‘actually, that’s not correct’, or ‘that’s a stereotype’. Depending on your relationship, you can pass on any information – like SANE’s fact sheets and videos – that can help educate others. You might find that the person is receptive and understanding and wants to do better.
If you find media that stigmatizes BPD or other mental health conditions, you can report them to SANE’s StigmaWatch Program. SANE works with the media to help people with BPD, and other complex mental health needs, are portrayed responsibly.
4. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries can be challenging. You don’t have to take responsibility for educating everybody. Nor do you have to put up with others’ ignorance.
It’s okay to walk away from situations or people who are judgmental, or who make you feel uncomfortable. For example, if you are working with a healthcare professional who doesn’t seem to understand BPD, or isn’t providing you with the support you need, you don’t have to settle. You deserve to work with people who understand BPD and will treat you as a unique person.
5. Learn about your rights
There are laws in Australia which protect people with BPD, and other complex mental health conditions from stigma and discrimination. For example, the Disability Discrimination Act is there to protect you from discrimination in the workplace, educational settings, and other areas of life.
6. Look after yourself
Most importantly, when experiencing stigma against BPD, try and take care of yourself first. Put any coping strategies you’ve learnt into place and seek professional help if needed. It’s also a great idea to connect with others who live with BPD, such as through reading about SANE’s Peer Ambassadors, joining a peer support group.
Effective medical, community and psychological treatment is available, and a person who is experiencing social anxiety can live a fulfilling life.
SANE offers a range of free support services for people over 18 years of age with complex mental health needs and their families and carers. Visit sane.org/get-support to choose the supports that work for you.
And if you’re new to SANE Forums, welcome! You can register here to join our safe and supportive online community.
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk, call 000 or visit your nearest hospital. For support with suicidal thoughts, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
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