Tips to Help Share Your Story

Protect yourself. There are real pros and cons to telling your story in public. Decide what's right for you.

Ultimately, the choice to disclose is yours. You can write your story for yourself, share it with close friends and family, or open it up for the world to see. Only you know which path is best for you.

There are pros and cons to disclosing your experiences with mental or emotional illness. Below is a list of benefits and costs that you should consider before sharing your story in public:

Benefits
  • You no longer have to worry about hiding your illness
  • You can be more open about your day-to-day life
  • You may gain approval from others who better understand what you go through
  • You may find others who have had similar experiences to you
  • You may find someone who can help you in the future
  • You are promoting your sense of personal power
  • You are living testimony against stigma
Costs
  • Others may disapprove of your mental illness or your disclosure
  • Others may gossip about you
  • Others may exclude you from social gatherings
  • Others may exclude you from work, housing, or other opportunities
  • You may begin to worry about what others are thinking of you or think that they are pitying you
  • Future relapses may be more stressful because more people are watching
  • Family members and others may be angry that you disclosed

Be yourself. Good stories are personal. Use everyday language and write with first-person words like "me", "I", and "my".

Use concrete examples. Talk about

Concrete Examples help people imagine themselves in your shoes.
Two ways to talk about depression Impact
Concrete Sometimes I would get so depressed that I would lie in my bed and cry for three days or more Your reader or listener can clearly imagine being in bed for 72 hours
Abstract Depression is like a dark cloth causing utter sadness This is vague and difficult to make sense of

Be truthful. People distrust stories that sound too good — or too bad — to be true. Stick to what actually happened. That's where you'll find your story's power.

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Your Life. Your Story. You Make a Difference.

About Start Your Story

Coming to grips with the onset of a mental or emotional disorder is tough enough. But on top of that burden, our society piles a millstone of shame. Our culture continues to treat mental illness as a character flaw rather than a condition. The result? Some people internalize stigma and avoid seeking treatment. Others face outright discrimination that locks them out of fulfilling jobs, safe housing and close relationships

It's time to put an end to stigma. And here's how we can do it: by telling our stories. Research shows that sharing our stories of struggle and triumph is the one proven way to knock down the walls of silence and discrimination that surround mental illness. Why? Because stories help others put themselves in our shoes and finally understand who we are: regular people, just like everyone else.

Start Your Story is a tool you can use to stop self-stigma by telling your story in a way that highlights your strengths and resilience. Or, if you choose, it can help you write a public story or prepare a speech so you can tackle stigma head on.

Start Your Story is based on the work of Patrick Corrigan, one of the nation's leading stigma researchers. Patrick serves as an investigator for the National Consortium on Stigma and Empowerment, is a distinguished professor of psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and has written 10 books. Start Your Story is based on tools he developed with co-author Robert Lundin in their book, Don't Call Me Nuts.

Start Your Story is a service of Wraparound Orange, which provides mental health services to children and their families in Orange County, Florida. Wraparound Orange is sponsored by Orange County Government and funded by a grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Visit WraparoundOrange.net to learn more.