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May 26, 2011 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in the problem of outing and coming out as it relates to mental illness. Can you point me to any good resources (books, articles, blog posts, anything) on this subject?
posted by prefpara to Human Relations (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, I just realized I phrased that too ambiguously. I do not mean the relationship between gay people coming out of the closet and mental illness. Rather, I am interested in mentally ill people "coming out" as mentally ill.
posted by prefpara at 4:03 PM on May 26, 2011

Rather, I am interested in mentally ill people "coming out" as mentally ill.

That's still pretty ambiguous. Is there a particular disease you're thinking of? A certain situation?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:43 PM on May 26, 2011

I would recommend searching for resources related to stigma, as coming out is one of the most powerful ways to undo stigma, so you may find related articles. Here's NAMI's stigma page, including this resource.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:48 PM on May 26, 2011

Stigma is a good start. Maybe also guides on "how to talk to your family about xx disorder? In my experience in doing diagnostic assessments for mental illness, family and friends seem most interested in learning the name of the disorder, what it implies in the long term as far as a person's behavior, and how to help. Some illnesses have more stigma associated with them (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) but it has been my experience that most people are kind at best and disinterested at worst when hearing somebody they know has been diagnosed.
posted by gilsonal at 5:23 PM on May 26, 2011

This is complicated, as I'm sure you know. I would suggest speaking with a therapist and or perhaps attend a support group. Shore up your own feelings intellectual and otherwise before you tell anyone, because sadly not everyone ...well very few people really know how to deal with that kind of news about a loved one and at times can be quite tactless. There are positive and negative outcomes of this type of news the positives are simple it's the negatives one needs reserves on...if indeed anyone is negative.
posted by gypseefire at 6:47 PM on May 26, 2011

Sorry, I don't mean resources for a personal struggle. I am just trying to find what's out there about the problem of mentally ill people coming out. I assume someone has been writing about the parallels and the differences between coming out as gay and coming out as mentally ill. Stigma is definitely a great place to start. I'm looking for legal, political, sociological analysis - I know there has been some advocacy for mentally ill people to come out as a stepping stone to greater rights, recognition, and so on.
posted by prefpara at 6:59 PM on May 26, 2011

Here's a good paper by SAMHSA on "Self-Disclosure and its Impact on Individuals who Receive Mental Health Services."

I second looking for info on NAMI's website; also the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery.

The phrase I'd search on is "self-disclosure."
posted by la petite marie at 10:31 PM on May 26, 2011

I have not yet read it but Telling is Risky Business is on my wishlist. A related title: Don't Call Me Nuts.

Think long and hard about it before coming out to anyone. I am not against coming out and have come out to most people in my life. But mental illness is still *very* stigmatized and you are going to get some very unexpected reactions.

I came out to someone whose mother is a mental health nurse, thinking she would surely understand. In fact, she said "my mom is a mental health nurse, don't you think I would understand?" Her response to my coming out was to never let me see her daughter (then age 1) again because I have "mental issues." The child in question is my only niece, the mother my half-sister, and her mother (the nurse) my dad's ex. I haven't seen her since she was 1. She is 7 now.

(I used to nanny professionally and have never been a danger to anyone but myself, and that was a long time ago.)
posted by IndigoRain at 11:50 PM on May 26, 2011

Read through this "Disclosure Decisions to Get the Job" .pdf from Virginia Commonwealth University. The decision tree helps exemplify the complexity of the decision process and impacts.

More needs to be done in assembling this information and defanging the stigma, for certain. It's killing people.
posted by batmonkey at 1:35 PM on May 27, 2011

This is an interesting topic. Researchers describe homosexuality and mental illness as "concealable stigmas," as they share the burden of concealment or the option of disclosure. (An article I came across points out that there are many other concealable stigmas, including illiteracy, infertility, HIV-infection, unemployment, working class background, history of abortion, experience of traumas, deafness, etc.)

You might want to check out "Mental illness stigma and disclosure: consequences of coming out of the closet."

Unsurprisingly, it found: "In line with previous research (e.g., Markowitz, 1998), the present study showed that perceived stigma was negatively related to self-esteem of people with a mental disorder. The impact of perceived stigma on self-esteem was stronger for those who were relatively open about their mental illness. These findings suggest that indiscriminant disclosure (see Corrigan & Matthews, 2003) is likely to have negative consequences for individuals' psychological well-being."

This article actually suggests revealing a mental disorder can adversely affect your ability to think.

There has been little push, that I can see, for people with mental illness to disclose their status beyond their intimates. The authorities counsel caution. I imagine that has to do with the obvious risks that come with disclosure and the perceived vulnerability of people with mental illnesses.
posted by reren at 5:42 PM on May 27, 2011

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