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Beating Stigma, Shame and Guilt by Hearing and Sharing Stories

Family members affected by mental health, alcohol and other drug problems are usually reluctant to talk about their experiences because of the stigma and discrimination they experience within their own family and in the community. Layered on top of stigma and discrimination are feelings of guilt and shame about what they could or should have done differently. This combination of negative feelings and experiences often results in families becoming socially isolated, seeking to hide the problem and trying to deal with it all within the family. Although understandable, this strategy actually doesn't work. What happens instead is that families find themselves going around in circles trying to solve the problem, feeling more guilt and shame as the problem grows, and feeling more alone struggling to cope. Reaching out, sharing our stories and hearing from others in a similar situation is helpful. Although it is hard to reach out because 'Shame' has a hold on us, reaching out starts a process of change where feelings of being alone disappears and self blaming fades. Thinking that there is something dysfunctional about me or my family shifts to understanding that mental health, alcohol and other drug problems do not discriminate. We come to realise that Any Family can be affected by these problems Anywhere, Anytime. When we reach out and look after ourselves we are better placed to keep supporting the people we care for who are living with mental health, alcohol and other drug problems.

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