Have these statements ever been said to anyone of us? We are crazy, we are stupid, or stop acting like a mental patient. Perhaps, we are told to just get over it. My notion is that at least one of them has been heard by most of us. However, each person reacts to this quite uniquely. Some laugh this off and think it is funny. Others take these comments as an insult and keep them inside for future use.
For many years, people with mental health issues have experienced some form of “STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION.” When mentioned often enough, the individuals begin to believe that we are what we said. Usually, this is called “PUBLIC STIGMA.” It represents the stigma, prejudice, and discrimination to a specific group such as mental illness. My focus in this article is on something slightly different, but no less significant.
What happens when we use these negative phrases on ourselves? A couple of examples, I am stupid, or I am behaving like a loony. Real confidence or self-esteem can not be very high. Overall, these words are hurtful, which can lead to other issues. Many times this is referred to as “SELF-STIGMA.” As a Mental Health Peer Specialist, I feel “SELF-STIGMA” is much worse for people with mental health issues because it is what we call or label ourselves. “SELF-STIGMA” occurs when we incorporate opinions and attitudes while suffering mentally from a variety of maladies.
Stereotypes are the way we collect information about others out there. Like the current COVID-19 pandemic, “SELF-STIGMA” and its consequences can lead to negative feelings and emotions, which often turn into mental health issues and or social isolation. Additionally, these anxious or negative thoughts we get from people in public causes some to drink or take drugs. Groups stay away from someone with mental illness because of fear of “SELF-STIGMA” and their belief “DISCRIMINATION” that anyone with these issues is dangerous. What an absolutely horrible way to live.
Furthermore, “SELF-STIGMA” for me, was a distorted belief of how people perceived I was. One way was that I was less than others, just because I had a mental illness diagnosis. These people continually discussed me and my given diagnosis behind my back. Also, individuals saw that I had many types of behavioral differences, so a lot of avoidance occurred. No, my diagnosis is and has never been Paranoid. Regardless of what was said or perceived, the more relevant and significant notion here was that “SELF-STIGMA” causes a considerable impact on my self-esteem. Yes, it still influences and affects me sometimes now.
“STIGMA” along with “DISCRIMINATION” is especially significant to “SELF-STIGMA” because we put this upon ourselves. During this time, when we have plenty to cope with, why add one more thing to our pile, unless we really want to. As for me, I do not want anything else. I have enough. The overall effect of SELF-STIGMA” occurs when we believe these public or internal attitudes, which possibly can make us suffer severe negative consequences. This, in turn, can push us toward any of the vast assortment of Mental Health Issues.
Now because we know more about “STIGMA” and “DISCRIMINATION” we can begin the process of reducing or even eliminating those words from our collective thinking and viewpoints. Also, we can erase both from our usable vocabularies and then remove each from dictionaries, forever. Be patient; it can happen someday.
See you in the NewsBlogs.
Editor note: This is a series article on stigma and discrimination by Howard Diamond.
Read all of Howard’s articles on stigma and discrimination, including STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION ABUSED BY MEDIA by Howard Diamond and STIGMA OR POSSIBLY DISCRIMINATION? .
Part Four in this series will be on Combating STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION.