“The stigma casts those dealing with a mental illness out of society.”
“Stigma means that you are ashamed of who you are. It prevents you from trying to improve your life.”
“It means my depression & anxiety aren’t taken seriously, my needs are dismissed & support can’t be found. It makes life hard.”
“The inability to speak openly or comfortably to anybody because of the fear of judgement or being treated differently.”
“Instead of staying I have the flu or caught a cold, stomach bug etc, I wish I could be honest…and say, I’m struggling today.”
To me, stigma is the difference between “I can tell you’re feeling sad, what’s wrong?” and “You’re depressed? I have no idea how to help you.” Sadly, I faced this exact situation myself when I was a junior and senior in high school. My close friends could tell that something was wrong, but it wasn’t until I told them that I had been diagnosed with depression that some of them began to act differently towards me. Instead of trying to be there for me as they had in the beginning, they began to slowly drift away from our friendship. I think it’s easy for people who haven’t dealt with depression to be there for someone who is sad, but as soon as the word “depression” is mentioned, they think that they have no idea how to handle the situation. Those friends from high school who slowly drifted away have been out of my life for years, and the friends who were always there for me and treated me exactly the same as they always had throughout my depression are the closest friends I have. The difference is that some people started to see me as “depression,” while my true friends still saw me as myself without the added label.
Stigma adds a label. People who are dealing with mental illness have enough to deal with as it is without the added labels that society is prone to add. What can we do to help remove those labels? I believe that open discussion and education are key. If society could stop putting stigmatizing labels on mental illness and understand that people are people, whether they are dealing with depression or cancer, we’d be on the right track.
Feel free to respond to these questions yourself by leaving a comment:“What does stigma mean to you? How has it affected you or someone you know?”