Coming Out Proud is the name of a program that was developed Patrick Corrigan to help people with a “mental illness” think through the risks and benefits of disclosure, and come up with a strategy that not only fits their values but avoids some of the many pitfalls of greater honesty about bipolar or depression.
The full program takes you through a process of self exploration that will help you answer questions such as…
- Who should I tell that I have a mental illness?
- To what degree should I disclose?
- Should I tell the whole ugly story or just bits?
- How quickly should I disclose, if at all?
- How do I deal with inquiring people wanting to know more about me?
- How will disclosure affect my career?
Risks and Benefits
The risks of disclosure might seem to many of us easier to understand than the benefits. So let’s start by thinking a bit about the potential benefits. Secrets, and the effort to keep secrets, have measurable negative effects on health and psychology. People who “take the risk” of disclosure are likely to feel less depression and anxiety, and may even have a lower risk of chronic health problems…. assuming the disclosure does not lead to a new set of challenges.
A colleague of mine, had this to say about vulnerability and disclosure…
Secrets are Universal
“Deciding to disclose experiences with mental illness is not an easy decision. Sometimes, this choice is made harder by the guilt you may feel about having a secret: “I must be a bad person to have to hide part of who I am.” This kind of guilt doesn’t make your decision-making process any easier. In fact, you may feel like a leper because you have these secrets. However, you can be consoled by the knowledge that most adults must deal/cope with secrets. Examples of these include:
- People who struggle with coming out of the closet: gays and lesbians,
people with AIDS, and people from some non-traditional religious
Smart, L.; Wegner, DM. In The social psychology of stigma. New York: Guilford Press; 2000. The hidden costs of hidden stigma.