I haven’t really written a lot lately about mental illness/my depression and I don’t think I have ever written anything about stigma as a subject, but a couple of things have happened recently that has made me think that perhaps I should write a few words. I don’t intend to get bogged down discussing pros and cons in detail, or point the finger at anyone as an example of the ‘bad guy’. These are just the thoughts of someone who has a mental illness, who has had it since childhood, who has held down managerial positions in a large government department for over twenty years, who had his first business while in his teens and continued in business for twenty years, who has seen stigma ‘at work’ in varying circumstances over the years and yet, I struggle sometimes to grasp the views of some of the ‘anti-stigma’ campaigners.
Now don’t get me wrong and don’t misquote me, I also believe that stigma is wrong, that people who hold responsible positions and are in a position to cause grief by their actions, should be targeted and educated, if they don’t want this then replace them. As for educating the average ‘Joe on the street’…well good luck with that one, time and example are the best you can hope for there. In our society people have become so good at presenting themselves in a way that disguises what and who they really are in order to promote themselves, that all the education in the world is no guarantee of success. How many times have you had boss that in no way demonstrates the qualities insisted on by the company/organization that you work for, and yet you know that they would have had to sit in front of a panel of interviewers and “demonstrate” that this is part of their work ethic? Take it or leave it, that’s the reality!
Another angle on this relates to how we ourselves behave…are we free of misbehaving in this area? Can we honestly say that we have never seen a news report where some act of…(something not good) has happened, there is some connection to…(a particular race, religion, group, etc), and we have not had a thought run through our head that goes something like this, “what do you expect!”, “no surprise there!”, or even worse “should have expected that!”. Hmmm, sounds like some kind of stigma to me! Yes I know there are other factors involved here, but underlying it is a similar problem. It’s easy to pull on an ‘anti stigma’ tee shirt’ but the real problem is oh so much deeper.
So where does this leave us? Honestly, I’m not sure, but what I do know is that stigma sucks, but if we think that just pulling on a tee shirt or running some campaign is going to fix the problem, then we have an even bigger problem. It is true that in the face of such odds, even the little things (like putting on a tee shirt) are worth it, I do believe that, but we shouldn’t get too hopeful which can eventually lead to more grief. At the end of the day it is us that lives with the depression, anxiety, BPD, or whatever condition it is and it is us that needs to be able to cope with it, looking to those who we know are there for us. Don’t turn our backs on those who do care and are always there for us. All the best….