Saturday, May 11, 2013

Stigma

Many of those who have never suffered from mental illness might not be certain what stigma is or if they are placing stigma on others. I do not blame them, for they know not what they do. It really isn't their fault either. The media has deemed all things mentally ill to be bad, dangerous, and something to fear. With the images and stories portrayed about us how could normal people really understand what we go through on a day to day basis? In a world where people want to feel safe and secure it is easier to blame mental illness for the cause of all evil doings because to not have a scapegoat, would make them realize that normal people can do bad things, and do them much more often than mentally ill people do.

I would like to take a second and ask a question. If you or someone you knew had the flu would you blame them for getting it or being sick? Then why would you blame someone for having a sickness in their brain?

I believe that stigma exists only because people allow it to. They make judgments because they are afraid of what they do not understand. They may not realize they are perpetuating it. That the things they say are discriminative and hurtful. They may not understand stigma when they see it.

A few common stigma phrases are:

You can just get over it.

There is nothing wrong with you physically, you are faking it.

You are just being difficult because you want attention.

You are crazy.You are dangerous. You are scary.

We hear these things everyday. If we do not hear them we can sense the changes in other's body language towards us. We can tell that they do not understand and it is crushing. I can not change the reactions of individuals if I choose to grace them with the knowledge that I suffer from mental illness. What I can do is explain it in a way that, if they are willing to listen, will help put their mind at ease.

That being said there are a few key words normal people respond to in negative ways.
Words like psychosis, schizophrenia, and personality disorder. These three words strike fear in people. Mostly because the media has placed very negative connotations on these three specific disorders. They are scared because they have never been taught to not be.
Psychosis, schizophrenia, and personality disorders do not make a person a crazy ax murderer. They do not make you a serial killer or someone who blows up train stations. They are mental illnesses that can be treated and the people that suffer from them can lead productive happy lives with medication and therapy. You do not need to run screaming to hills when you meet someone with these disorders. It makes them embarrassed and it makes you look like an ass.

Another form of stigma is getting the illnesses mixed up and backwards. If a person has mental illness it does not automatically make them psychotic. I have been called that by misinformed individuals. Psychosis is a mental illness that makes it impossible for the suffer to understand what is real and what is just in their minds. I suffer from OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder. I am firmly aware of what is real and not real. I am scared of everything, I am not unsure of reality. I know that the things I do seem off, I am unable to stop doing them. I am also not crazy, delusional, or inept. I can function, just maybe not the way a normal person would.

Stigma is also presented in the form of shame. Being told or hinted at that mental illness is a sign of weakness or somehow our fault. Mental illness like OCD and bipolar have been thought to run in families. They may have genetic components. Illnesses like PTSD are caused by environmental developments. They are caused by damage inflicted upon you from things like abuse, war, and traumatic events. Some illnesses you are born with and some just pop out of nowhere. This is not our fault and the shame does not belong to us nor should it be fashioned into a crown and be placed on our heads. We did not want this and we sure as hell did not choose it.

Stigma is also is bullying. Laughing at someone because they are different. They do odd things. Most of us know our outward symptoms and are embarrassed enough, we don't need them to be pointed out to us and laughed at. It's cruel.

Telling someone that their phobia is stupid is a form of stigma. I can tell you up front that my phobia of rabbits is bizarre. I am aware that it is not going to hurt me. However, it does nothing to stop the overwhelming panic when I am faced with one. It does not make my phobia any less. Your judgment on what is scary and what is not does not help my fears at all. Thank you for your input now shut up. Phobias are real and trying to minimize them because you deem them to be silly is hurtful and wrong. I do not tell you what to be afraid of, do not try to tell me that my phobias are silly or not real. They are real to me and that is all that matters.

Stigma is displayed when telling a depressed person to perk up. Yeah, like that idea never occurred to them. Don't you think that if there was a choice of happy go lucky and soul shattering despair they would choose to be happy?


Stigma is punishment. [tweet this]. Stigma is hurting those that need support and understanding the most. Stigma is an uneducated response to a complicated problem. Stigma is hurtful and devastating. It needs to be identified and rooted out. It can only be stopped when we no longer are willing to accept it and all of it's misconceptions. It can only be stopped by educating the public that mental illness does not make you anymore dangerous than the average person. We have to educate people on what they are so dearly ignorant of. That we are people, good people just like everyone else. We just need a little understanding and respect.

Here is a great video with the mental illness advocate/comedian Ruby Wax explaining mental illness and stigma. For those of you can see the video the link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbbMLOZjUYI. Have a great weekend all and thanks for reading.

                                                               Neurotic Nelly


5 comments:

  1. Hello there, we could all use a little sunshine in our live, which is why I have nominated you for the Sunshine Award, check out the link (http://a-mid-life-adventure.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-sunshine-award-nomination.html)for the rules. Wishing you a fantastic week!

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  2. Thank you so very much DJ! That is a terrific honor!

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