I have been living with mental illness for half of my life and I am very thankful for all that I have learned and the great people that I have met; I have developed relationships and friendships with so many people over the years. I have also spent half my life advocating and trying to make the world a better place for people with mental illness and yes, I have heard a lot about stigma and how people are affected by it. I have participated in events that were intended to break the stigma that darkens mental illness.
I happened to come across an interview with Jane Pauley recently who has been living with bipolar disorder for about 11 years. Jane was a broadcaster with NBC and was one of the hosts for the Today Show. In the interview, Jane talked about the word ‘stigma’ and said she thinks the word should be cut from our vocabulary. She said the word ‘stigma’ is hurtful and not at all helpful. She would rather talk about hope and advocating, because ‘stigma’ produces fear among people.
I’m sure I have been a victim of stigma at some time during my journey with mental illness, but to be honest, no one single time or incident really stands out. Of course, no one knows what goes on behind their back or what other people are saying in private conversations (and no, that is not a paranoid statement). It’s a fact—people talk. Perhaps they were talking about me.
I am trying to understand the view that Jane is trying to convey and to find a true definition of stigma. Do we need anti-stigma campaigns and, if yes, what should they consist of? What should the message be? What should their goals be? And at whom should they be directed?
I must admit I do not have the answers for those questions, but I’m interested to know what you think. I would love for you to send me an email and tell me your thoughts on stigma: Does it really exist? Should we get rid of the word ‘stigma’ as Jane suggests? Or is stigma the root of all evil when it comes to mental illness?
To share your thoughts:
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Discuss Stigma in our community forum
- Or comment on this post below