Women And Mental Health: The Stigma They Face After Diagnosis By Those They Love The Most: Their Families And Friends


Author: Emili Ema Sedlar

In recent years, the subject of mental health has become one of the leading topics in the media and there are many sites that specifically focus on those that currently experience or have gone through a mental health crisis. Such sites are The Mighty, in which many strangers are welcome to share their stories and advise those that are hopeless what to do and how to seek help. It is a relief to see many people in solidarity, supporting each other out when going through tough times and even opening up about the most frightening moments they go through.

It is unbelievable to see this come at light. However, what many do not know, when informing about mental health, is how most of the times, women are those that are stigmatized and discriminated against for their mental health status. According to Psychology Today, when a woman is put at blame because of a mental health condition or when she goes through a traumatic experience, such as domestic violence and rape, she is more likely to be exposed to stress which can cause further complications in anxiety. In addition to this, the article states how most of the time, women will be blamed for being raped or abused at home by their partner.

There hasn’t been specific research published regarding how many women with mental health conditions are discriminated nor are there any interviews that elaborate on how often have women faced backlash from family members and friends because of their mental health issues.

This article will focus upon the individual stories of women that have been stigmatized by their family members, friends and surroundings, thus in which way have they received support when diagnosed.

Elena is a 63 year-old mother, grandmother and artist who for years has struggled with depression and anxiety. Coming from Croatia, she revealed how her depression and anxieties started in her early years of marriage, when her husband had been unfaithful to her and when her daughter got sick with Ventricular Septal Defect. „I couldn’t talk to anyone, because I was ashamed of even saying how sad I was, but I knew I had to go on for my baby girl“, said Elena, who wished to be anonymous for this article. When she started to open up about the severity of her anxieties, her family and friends told her how she had to „fake a smile on her face and not talk about her fears, otherwise he will leave her for someone else who is never sad“. „Croatian mentality is horrible when it comes to mental illness. There is only one category if you show signs of depression: you’re a lunatic“, she explained.

Once when her family and friends turned their back on her after the divorce, she realized how she had to rely on herself and no one else. „Routines that seemed to be nothing start to play a big role in your life. That is what keeps you going“, described Elena and advised many women out there one simple rule: „If you’re struggling from getting out of bed or if you don’t see the reason why to go to the store, you need to realize that that is escaping from reality. If you face your depression and you say ‘Today I am going out because I want to be happy’, it can be a glorious and wonderful day. You have to keep saying to yourself  ‘Nothing bad is going to happen to me outside. I will die before if I stay in bed than going outside’“, concluded Elena.

LeSherri James is a mother of two and has been living with HIV for over 18 years. Talking about her depression, James highlighted how her family did not show any affection towards her when seeking help. „My family believes I’m just the only child acting out“, said James and added how during the symptoms, her boyfriend had cheated on her, did not show any compassion into helping her. After being diagnosed with bipolar, her family didn’t want to be in touch with her. „I asked my family to go to support group with me or to a therapist. Not one of my family member have every came with me about going to support groups or therapist in 12 years“, revealed James and advised to those that are struggling to find a doctor that is willing to listen and open up what kind of possibilities there are for a treatment.

From the Author: 

Hi there lovely people! 

My name is Emili Ema Sedlar and I am a journalist from Croatia. It is such an honor to be volunteering for Women’s Rights News and bringing out new ideas about today’s issues in society. I am a college student, majoring in journalism and communications. In the past few years, I have been an activist in the fields of education, HIV, immigrants’ rights and women’s rights, focusing mostly on stories that are unique and different. I have published my journalistic works on many Croatian news sites and for over a year, I’ve been a writer for Positive Women’s Network-USA.