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Stories of self-stigma and the path to positive energy

Stories of self-stigma and the path to positive energy

People are speaking out about the stigma associated with mental illness in a series of stories by Chinese mental health programme, Kai Xin Xing Dong (KXXD).

KXXD – an education programme that works to counter the stigma and discrimination related to mental illness in the Chinese community – has launched its latest campaign, which is focusing on self-stigma. This is when people internalise and start believing negative messages others have about mental illness, and is a significant issue in the Chinese community.

Seven people of Chinese descent have been interviewed for the KXXD project, which is called Positive Energy as this is a popular concept in Chinese culture that suggests balance and wellbeing, and can be viewed as the opposite of self-stigma.

“Having a diagnosis of mental illness can be a source of shame in Chinese communities, as many people still believe mental illnesses are caused by demons or bad karma,” says Judi Clements, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation.

“Self-stigma is a major barrier to recovery and so by reducing it, people can improve their mental health and wellbeing, participate more fully in society, and gain positive energy.”

The stories in the Positive Energy series will be posted weekly on www.kaixinxingdong.org.nz. They highlight a number of issues, including the fear of disclosing a diagnosis of mental illness to a partner and coping with the negative attitudes of friends and family.

Some of the interviewees have chosen to remain anonymous, however Debbie Siau is among those speaking openly about her experiences.

Debbie, who has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, moved from Singapore to New Zealand with her husband in 2010.

“During the initial years of my recovery, I felt like a low-achiever,” she says. “I imagined I would have difficulties looking for a job. I felt I had a weak personality and I thought my family would be embarrassed about me.”

A lot has changed since Debbie was first diagnosed. Today, she says she is moving away from the negativity associated with self-stigma and towards positive energy.

“Positive Energy is an energy that drives hope,” she says. “It’s a hope that moves towards meaning and purpose in life, and inspires others that recovery is possible.”

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