STIGMA…?

I have to write about stigma, I hear this word often in conjunction with mental illness, any kind of mental illness. People are afraid of stigma, so they won’t get treatment, they won’t take medication, they won’t see a therapist, they won’t disclose that they have a mental illness to their boss, they won’t tell anyone because people will call them crazy, people will be afraid of them. Yes, this is all the case. But why does stigma exist? Why are people called crazy? Why are others afraid of them? Why won’t they disclose that they have a mental illness? Well, when we are ill, in a severe phase of a mental illness, when we are out of touch with reality, we are indeed “crazy”. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I know that I have thought that a witch with black magic powers was trying to literally destroy my heart, and this witch lived in Eastern Europe. Yes I really did think that in the midst of a severe, full blown manic phase. I would now consider this sort of crazy… ummm…sorry but I would. So there’s that stigma, sort of correctly placed on the severely mentally ill. Also why do people fear us? Well, we are capable of doing some truly awful things in the throes of mental illness, see Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook. Of course most mentally ill people do not commit any crimes and are not violent, and most crimes and violence is committed by “normal” people, that being said, people are still not sure what to expect of people with mental illness, and uncertainty can be frightening. So there it is, the reasons for stigma.

So how do we combat stigma? We get treatment from a psychiatrist and psychologist. We take our medication, faithfully. We do all the things we know keep us in the healthy zone like exercise, yoga, meditation. We stay normal. We don’t visit the crazy place, we don’t go there, we stay away from it. And then if we tell people we have bipolar d/o or depression, or anxiety, they see that we are “normal” and they have nothing to fear from us, or be uncomfortable about. And voila! The end of stigma, at least the beginning of the end.

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