STIGMA is a nasty word. And every time we use it, we unwittingly reconfirm that mental illness is a mark of disgrace.
The word’s just too easy to use without thinking. It’s become glib.
Ask anyone why people don’t speak about poor mental health and the first word you’ll hear is the ‘S’ one. It’s a catch-all that oversimplifies and diminishes people’s experiences.
It’s also taken on a malicious overtone as if the systems and people responsible for stigma deliberately choose to humiliate their family, friends or colleagues. Perhaps some do, but the majority of people do so unwittingly.
The ‘S’ word has also become the rallying cry for all of us trying to build better workplaces and communities. All we have to do is get rid of stigma and all will be well. So down with stigma. Let’s beat it, reduce it or rid ourselves of it.
But what does that all mean? It’s non-thinking nonsense.
For me, ignorance is a lot better word – a lack of knowledge or information. That’s why so many people and systems react poorly to mental illness. They don’t understand it. That’s the problem in a nutshell: people don’t understand mental illness.
And why should they? Hell, half of us with lived experience don’t understand it. So let’s start to demystify mental illness. To educate one another. To normalise the subject. And lay off the automatic and unthinking use of …