Is the “Stigma” surrounding Mental Illness Real?


There are many, many mental illnesses and it is not within the wishes of the author to disclose all of those issues within this single article. The opinions presented here come from an all encompassing viewpoint of Mental illness. Views stated within this article are opinions founded on research and experience. Please, treat it as such.

 

Ladies and gentleman, I want to ask a question that may/may not have crossed your minds. That question is this:

Is the stigma surrounding Mental Illness real?

Odd question to ask but it is truly something that has plagued my mind in recent moments. When I speak with most mentally ill men and women, they are sure to mention some kind of discrimination they’ve received at the hands of someone in their life because of their specific illness. Ironically enough, when I speak with those outside of the Mental Health arena, they are quick to say that they have had limited interaction with those who are mentally ill and do not ever recall being discriminatory against anyone of that nature.

I suppose, after the above thought, a more specific wording of my question would sound like this:

Is it all in our heads?

Before I dive in to my main question, I want to discuss what this supposed stigma is. I’ve had this said to me before: “What’s this stigma you talk so much about?” As defined by Psychology Today, it is the “characterization by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviour directed towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric label they have been given.” (Article found here) It’s the label that mentally ill men and women are more dangerous than the “normal” community and must be treated with great (dis)regard. In more honest terms, it means that we’re freaks and other people should do everything they can to avoid us; maybe that’s a tad overdramatic. Anyways…

Interestingly enough, Psychology Today lists two types of stigmas in the quoted article: Social and Self. What I described above is social but self stigma is another beast entirely. Instead of the derogatory action coming from an external source, those hesitations/judgments/discriminations come from, you guessed it, within yourself. This fact further begs my question: Is it all in our heads?

What if the stigma is imaginary? Fiction? All part of a land of “make-believe”? Would you not agree that we (the mentally ill) find ourselves to be our own worst enemies when it comes to the battle of our minds? Our brain is sick, it’s not operating in its fullest of capacities. What if, because of our mental struggle/pain (probably caused by other people) we’ve created a monster called “stigma” to provide a blanket of protection for our damaged hearts?

I mean, think about it. We’re used to building up protective walls to keep the pain out. What if this is just another one of those walls? What if this is our fail-proof booby trap that no one can get past? It gives us a chance to stay isolated, secluded. Basically, it’s a justification for wallowing in our sickness. But…

What if it is real?

Let’s be honest, we have all seen the media outlets that label mass murderers as “mentally ill”.

Deranged

Psychopathic

Sociopathic

Sick

Twisted

Mental

I’m sure those terms have been tossed around the block once or twice. It seems that the world’s classic fall back line is “Oh, they were just sick mentally”. Unfortunately, this feeds the notion that all mentally ill people are dangerous, unstable, and untrustworthy. It’s almost a given that at any point we could snap. What happens then? Well, people keep their distance!

Boom. Stigma.

Shall we continue the honesty train? It’s not that easy to talk to us when we’re in the middle of one of our “attacks”. In fact, it’s really not that easy to talk to us period. We’re isolated folk. We’ve shut down to the majority of the world. It’s a scary place! Therefore, when a “normal” person tries to talk to us, what happens? Silence. Stuttering. Anxiety. We freeze! What does that produce out of the other person? Probably an incredible amount of frustration.

You know, I harp a lot on those who are ignorant of the mental health arena but can we really blame them? Yes and no. Yes for the simple fact that they could take the time to learn about our issues and do their best to help us. No, because if they did try we would probably shut down anyway and cut off any attempt they make at loving us.

What I’m saying is that this battle is a two way street.

If we want to end the stigma surrounding mental illness we all have to learn to get along. That means that those who are ignorant need to get “edumecated” and those who are ill need to learn how to open up again. It’s risky for both sides of the equation. It opens up the chance for more pain, frustration, and isolation. Can you imagine the rewards of such a thing though? We could actually end this. The world might actually learn how to accept the mentally ill for who they are. The mentally ill might actually start trusting the world again as a “not so scary place”.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

So, to answer my first question: Yes, the stigma surrounding Mental Health is real. It’s very real. Unbeknownst to most people though, it doesn’t just exist in the outside world (meaning those who don’t suffer). The stigma also exists in the mentally ill’s mind.

If we want to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, education and trust need to be at the center of our efforts. Take some time today and do your part.

Change is possible.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Sound off in the comments with your thoughts, questions, or concerns. Much love to you all!

14 Replies to “Is the “Stigma” surrounding Mental Illness Real?”

  1. Sometimes I find that “stigma” that keeps people back and away is not necessarily a bad thing. It gives me the isolation I so strongly crave for my own safety. I was once accused of “over-doing” my “issues” just to keep people at bay. I’ve never found that I need to work at keeping people away — but then maybe I’ve always highly developed the stigma inside myself …
    Anyhoo — all that to say “is stigma really such a bad thing?”

    Like

    1. You know, that’s a great point…Truly. I think in an isolationist’s perfect world it wouldn’t be. I guess it really comes down to your preference and how you’re wired when it comes to relationships. I’m a naturally outgoing person with a desire for strong friendships. Over the years, and through a lot of pain, that has gradually changed to the other side. I still value friendship’s and love but I can very much do ok on my own…for a little while. How do you relate with people? Have you always been an introvert or extrovert?

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      1. If I could truly be an isolationist, I would be. But I need people. I need to be seen. And heard. I think that’s why I blog – if nothing else to be heard. I was very much an extrovert when I was younger. Bullying, abuse — all took their toll. Question – is there any way of going back over that bridge to the “open” side, and if so – would it be worth it?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I feel you on that completely. It sounds as though we have an identical past when it comes to bullying and rejection. I can relate with the pain of loneliness. I honestly think that there is a way but I don’t think it would ever be a complete change. I believe it is possible to forgive but one can never forget. After events such as the ones we’ve dealt with our psyches have been altered. I think it would be worth trying to redeem some part of your past but I don’t know if it will ever be a full transformation. I’m dealing with the same question myself. I wish I could go back and change it all. I wish I could be naive again. I wish I could regain my innocence. At the same time I wouldn’t ever want any of those back…It’s a strange place to be.

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      3. Bingo. I’d love to regain innocence – but with that comes trust – and I don’t know that I EVER want to trust that openly again.
        I suppose this is where faith kicks in. Just sometimes it would be nice to have something a little more solid to stand on. Suppose that’s why it’s called “faith” ….
        SIGH

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh my friend, how that resonates with me. I don’t want to openly trust like that ever either but I know that if I ever want a meaningful relationship Im going to have to. It’s scary…Terrifying actually. I’ve had horrid anxiety because of my trust issues. Faith is indeed the substance of things hoped for but not seen. I guess the difference is when we stop having faith in people and ourselves and fully rely on God for our every need…Thick and thin.

        We’re going to be okay. Sooner or later. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. For sure for sure. Is it because of fear that you don’t let them in? It’s hard to erase the self-stigma simply because the social stigma is so prevalent. It’s like, how do we ever begin to accept ourselves when every voice we hear says we’re not acceptable?

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  3. I was really worried about where you were going with this. But, I think that there is some really good truth here. Yes, I am avoided because “normal” people think I’m going to go nutters on them. But, I also avoid, because I don’t want to see the hesitation in their eyes. But, maybe it won’t be there. It’s a big leap of faith.

    It’s a really interesting question. It’s a lot to think about.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It really is. I grasped on to the question but then was quickly hit the ramifications/implications of what it might mean. In no way am I justifying any stigma from external sources. It’s ridiculous, unfounded, and hurtful. I’m just curious as to whether or not the stigma is only coming from an external source.

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      1. I don’t think it is…at least not in my case. I am afraid. I blog anonymously, my family (except hubby and MIL ’cause they live here) don’t know the half of it. I have already decided that they cannot handle it and I haven’t even given them a chance. At the same time, I see the external stigma everyday on these blogs and on Fakebook when I talk more generally.

        Liked by 2 people

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