Hey all…I know that it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me…at least it feels that way. I probably even said that as the intro to the last post I wrote here. At least I think I did, memory is still pretty awful these days. Anyways, let’s talk about Stigma. Ah yes, everyone here knows of the lovely stigma, at least they should. Not saying that I hope you’ve experienced stigma, just that you know of it. Though, it is pretty difficult to get through life with mental illness without experiencing stigma. For those of you who don’t know what stigma is, consider yourselves lucky for one, but maybe you’ll understand if I use these words instead : Intolerance, Discrimination, Hatred, Prejudice, Bigotry, etc. Stigma is essentially all of these things, and it is not unique to the mental health world either. Stigma has been experienced by everyone on this planet, except for maybe rich white guys. Then again, I just stigmatized the rich white guys, by saying they’ve never experienced stigma…so I mean…Stigma can easily be described as treating someone a certain way because of something that is beyond their control. Examples include racism, sexism, addiction, mental illness, eating disorders, height, hair color, etc. SO, if I were to treat you differently because of something that you could not control, then I would be stigmatizing you. For example, if I said, “Just get outside and bask in the sunlight for once, then you won’t be so depressed!” That would not only be highly insensitive and heavily misinformed, but would also be adding to the stigma currently surrounding depression. Now I’m not discounting the positive effects of being outdoors, and getting some sunlight, but it is in no shape or form, a cure for depression, or for any mental illness for that matter.
I forget who it was, but there was someone who was spreading misinformation about mental health on Twitter, and many of the more social advocates immediately jumped on it. The person in question said something along the lines of, and I’m in no ways quoting exactly here: “Mental illness is a choice, you just have to decide to be mentally healthy and it will happen.” Needless to say, this person was INCREDIBLY wrong about mental illness, and she was almost immediately called out on it. The thing that makes this instance so much worse, is that for the next several days, she was trying to defend her position from all the immensely educated mental health advocates on Twitter. Sure there were some all too obvious “low blow” satire like, “Oh my gosh! I had no idea! Thanks blank, My mental illness is now cured!” However, a rather large part of me completely supports turning this person into the “village idiot” for a little while, and letting them soak in how wrong they truly were. Yet, the other part of me thinks that she should have just been treated as uneducated, and promptly, politely corrected (even though it wouldn’t have made any difference). Speaking of Twitter, how did you like the alternate words for Stigma that I listed in the beginning? Well, it wasn’t yours truly that made the rather obvious connection. It was a user on Twitter that goes by the handle of MyMedicatedTO, I would use the @ symbol but it creates some weird link that doesn’t lead to Twitter…so I trust you all to find this guy/girl/non-binary person yourselves if you’re interested enough.
The sad thing is, is that this MyMedicatedTO is completely right! Stigma can easily be interchanged with any of these awful terms, and quite honestly should be. MyMedicatedTO also made a remark about how the word stigma feels too soft for the actions it usually perpetrates. I actually agree here, because the word stigma, has somehow gotten attached to Mental Health, for better or worse. Now, this is MY opinion, being attached to Mental Health, often allows some people to easily dismiss something. So as stigma is attached to Mental Health, when these people hear about the Stigma that mental illness sufferers experience, they quickly dismiss it as more “Mental Health hullabaloo” and don’t address it. However, since these other terms like Intolerance, Discrimination, Hatred, Prejudice, and Bigotry are kinda hot topics our current society, I feel that people would be more receptive of what we have to say. Now I am in no way saying that we should stop saying Stigma, because well, it more or less is synonymous with mental health. I am saying however, if we want to add a little extra “weight” to what we are saying as mental health advocates, we could use another term for basically the same thing. Because honestly, stigma is almost always no different than discrimination because of mental illness. Hell, that’s why I write under a pseudonym. Although, I am tossing around the idea of using my real name. I mean, I’m writing this article on my work computer, in front of my coworkers, and have not received a single question about it. Anywho, we all have to do our part on fighting the stigma, not just in the mental health world, but everywhere there is one. If there are people that still judge others based on things that were not a choice (unfortunately there are) we still have our work cut out for us. At least to me, I can’t just be a mental health advocate, I have to be an equality advocate. All people are equal to one another, and should be treated as such…but hey, what do I know, I’m just some faceless blogger.
Hugs + Kisses,