Monday, 24 October 2016

The 'S' Word

Image by psych central

Three out of four people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma. Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart. When a person is labelled by their illness they are seen as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination. 

Stigma is something I have experienced ever since I was diagnosed with Borderline back in 2007. I remember my Mum took me out for lunch after my first attempt and some girls from my school were there. I watched as they whispered and pointed at me as news spreads very fast in a small town. When you know suicide attempts are made into gossip then you have a very big problem in society. Am I angry at them? No. I am angry at the stigma and the very little awareness raised when it comes to suicide and mental illness. 

Negative attitudes does create prejudice. I remember one time this year when I wasn't invited to a friends party. I considered as to be friends but because my ex girlfriend was attending they didn't want any 'drama'. I was even in communication with my ex at the time. I understand its their birthday but it really did hurt me and made me feel very ashamed of myself. Something I shouldn't have to feel. 

There has been other times I haven't felt comfortable going out or have been anxious about certain people I may bump into. No one should have to live in fear like this. Fear of others going out of their way to make them feel ashamed for something that they really don't understand or don't want to understand. 

Stigma brings experiences and feelings of shame, blame, hopelessness, distress, misrepresentations in the media and makes someone reluctant to seek the help that they need. 

We can change stigma in society by learning facts about the illness, getting to know people with personal experiences, speak up when you think someone is being negative about mental illness and creating stereotypes, don't label or judge people- treat them with respect and dignity as you would with anyone else, don't discriminate when it comes to housing, participation and employment and talk about your own experiences you may have with mental illness. They may not be the same as the sufferers, but the sufferer will feel like they have someone to fall back on and seek comfort in some understanding. The more its spoken about, the less people will continue to believe its shameful and should be hidden. 

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