My thoughts on there being ‘no stigma’ around mental illness

F

firemonkee57

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 23, 2009
Messages
8,215
#1
Last Sunday, the Observer published a piece by Elizabeth Day which appeared to claim that stigma around mental illness no longer existed.

She certainly didn’t sugar the pill.

“I don’t view mental illness as a scary, strange thing or as a form of weakness. Do you? I doubt it.”

“…bandying around the term “stigma” in reference to mental illness is unhelpful…can’t we just ditch the word?”

“…let’s stop saying there’s a stigma attached to it.”

Unsurprisingly, this went down like a sack of lead balloons with the mental health community. Amongst the fervent criticism was a typically evocative piece by Charlotte Walker.

And who can fail to understand the outrage? Research persistently shows that around 90% of people with a mental illness experience the effects of stigma.

However, in a follow-up piece published on her own blog today, Day tries to clarify her position. I’ll assume she’s being genuine in this and not resorting to tactical repositioning. She asserts that she would never deny that people with mental health problems still experience discrimination, but that stigma, something different, is largely a thing of the past.

She reminds us of the definitions of stigma that she used in the original piece:

“…a Greek term that referred to the marking – by cutting or burning – of socially undesirable types such as criminals, slaves or traitors.

and

“…the phenomenon whereby an individual with an attribute which is deeply discredited by his/her society is rejected as a result of the attribute”.

It is here, for me, that the confusion and uproar has arisen. Day’s definition of stigma, as well as her appreciation of the prevalence of what she sees as stigma are both askew with reality.

While Day appears to believe that stigma simply denotes the process of society highlighting an intrinsic, internal flaw in someone, we know that it is rather different to that. The now generally accepted conceptualisation of stigma is Thornicroft’s suggestion that it encompasses problems of knowledge (ignorance), attitudes (prejudice) and behaviour (discrimination) – all of which are external to the person with mental illness. Though the results of stigma can be felt horrendously, the stigma itself comes from someone else.

And even if we do work with her more narrow definition, it’s hardly as if society’s image of mental illness is as unblemished as she thinks it is. Though in science and philosophy (areas which Day may be more familiar with than severe mental illness) we may have moved past the notion of mental illness being a moral judgement or reason for scorn, the real world is sadly still rife with abuse.

My thoughts on there being
 
SomersetScorpio

SomersetScorpio

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 17, 2012
Messages
13,534
Location
The West Country
#3
Hmm.. she obviously doesn't realise that stigma isn't always beating up someone who looks a bit strange, it's more subtle and insidious than that. x
 
D

Deliah

Guest
#4
Very interesting, I can see her point, at least I can read it through my own lens. Imagine we just decided that there was no stigma. It's a belief after all and beliefs can change. Isn't it a self fulfilling prophecy. If we believe there is a stigma then won't we believe that what happens to us is the result of a stigma to mental health, when it could just as easily be that a person doesn't like us. I doesn't give us access to change if we always believe we are being stigmatised. I think it is true that mental illness still poses a great fear for people. We can't change that in others, it is for them to look after for themselves and their problem, but we can change what we do. Mmmmmm, however, I haven't yet been in a work situation where I have experiences the effects of other peoples fear, so........ Dunno, just thinking. Basically we have to start with ourselves first and accept our own mind first. D x
 
Toasted Crumpet

Toasted Crumpet

ACCOUNT CLOSED
Joined
Feb 11, 2013
Messages
8,426
Location
under the Forum Troll bridge
#5
Very interesting, I can see her point, at least I can read it through my own lens. Imagine we just decided that there was no stigma. It's a belief after all and beliefs can change. Isn't it a self fulfilling prophecy. If we believe there is a stigma then won't we believe that what happens to us is the result of a stigma to mental health, when it could just as easily be that a person doesn't like us. I doesn't give us access to change if we always believe we are being stigmatised.
Sounds like CBT to me, change the way you think about it and it won't exist.

I don't think accepting our own minds is going to help if society still sees us as less than
 
PerfectSurvivor

PerfectSurvivor

ACCOUNT CLOSED
Joined
Oct 20, 2013
Messages
1,095
Location
UK
#7
People fear and repel what they are closest too. This illness, mental health, can strike people down at any stage in there life and appears to be permanent. People are scared of it so the easiest thing is to push it away.