My Thoughts on the Word “Stigma”

I have recently heard of the idea of getting away from the word “Stigma” when speaking about mental health. There are various articles that speak directly towards eliminating the word from the conversations altogether. For example, the article titled, “The Word Stigma Should Not Be Used in Mental Health Campaigns”. In this article, the author makes the case that “The focus of our efforts should be upon society and the perpetrators of this discrimination, not the subjects of it. If we accept the concepts of parity of esteem, then we should describe not stigma, but rather bigotry, hatred, unlawful and unjust discrimination.”

I prefer the definition offered by Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, Ph.D., “Stigma is a perceived negative attribute that causes someone to devalue or think less of the whole person.” in an article titled, “What is Stigma?

In my opinion, the stigma is the negative feelings that some have regarding mental illnesses.  When one mentions that they have depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or another mental illness, the stigma is what causes people to take a step back. The stigma causes people to begin to whisper when they discuss a mental illness. Another example of stigma is when someone tells a person who is suffering from depression to “Just go for a jog” or “Watch a funny movie”. This minimizes the serious and often times debilitating nature of the illness.  Stigma also creates shame and/or fear in people and often times prevents them from seeking the support they need.

The stigma, I believe, is what leads to the discrimination and bigotry and, yes, this certainly needs to be addressed as well. The discrimination and bigotry are the actions one takes towards a person living with a mental illness. For example, an employer not hiring a prospective employee because the employer discovers that the person has a history of depression. Another example would be a landlord choosing not to rent to someone due to the fact that they discover the possible tenant lives with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

In summary, I do not believe that we need to stop using the word “stigma” in our conversations around mental health. I believe that both the stigma and the discrimination/bigotry need to be addressed. If we are able to minimize or even eliminate the stigma, we would see much less of the discrimination. We need to continue to talk about mental illnesses, share our stories of living with a mental illness, and help educate others. These are a few of the ways that we can help end the stigma…and the discrimination.

As with all of my posts, I welcome and encourage comments. Thank you!

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6 thoughts on “My Thoughts on the Word “Stigma”

  1. Mark David Goodson

    It’s a loaded word for sure. I struggled with placing it when I first began to publicly blog my own mental health (addiction) issues. Each time I explore where stigma gets placed as far as addicts are concerned, I come back to the racism of people of color, and putting ‘them’ in prison. That’s where it starts for addicts, so far as I’ve found.

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  2. darie73

    Yay! I agree with you 100%. The preconceived notion of mental illness (stigma) leads to discrimination and bigotry. Growing up surrounded by severe mentally ill family members I knew at an early age how people reacted. They wouldn’t walk on the same side of the street as my Uncle Jimmy. I’m not sure I would’ve either if he wasn’t my Uncle. He was Paranoid Schizophrenic who chose to medicate with street drugs and live on the streets instead of a hospital. But he was smart, kind and one of the funniest people you could meet. His sister was also Schizophrenic and as ashamed as I am to admit this I disliked her immensely. If she came to our house while our parents weren’t home we would hide and pretend no one was there. She was loud and mean. She had no filter and said whatever she thought. She had an obsession with weight but not just her own. Telling a young girl of 12 she’s a “fat pig” doesn’t really go over well. I was guilty of having my own issues with mental illness. My twin sister and I talked about it often when were young. We both knew it was highly likely one of us would have some kind of illness. We would sit on the floor and say over and over “Don’t let it be me”. Well it turned out to be me and I was showing symptoms even then. The problem was my mom noticed it because it’s mostly in her family, my dad thought I would grow out of it, and they both felt a tremendous amount of guilt. Nothing was done. Sorry for rambling on. I enjoy your writing and will be re tweeting and re blogging if that’s ok.

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    1. allevin18 Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I really appreciate it. Your Uncle Jimmy sounds like a pretty amazing man. I’m not sure you have to be ashamed of not liking his sister. You said yourself that she was loud, mean, and had no filter. I believe it’s possible to not necessarily like her, yet have empathy for her as a person who is living with Schizophrenia.

      I appreciate you retweeting and reblogging my material! Thank you!
      Al

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