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Fighting the Seen Enemy – Depression and Stigma

Last week I wrote about how fighting bipolar disorder is like fighting an invisible enemy. And I suggested that creating an internal visual of an “enemy” was a helpful way of differentiating the sick person from the illness itself.

I think stigma is similar. We can let stigma, or thoughts thereof, get into our heads. We can start to believe the ignorant judgements of others and we can let stigma bring us down.

But we don’t have to. We can fight.

And while stigma is often something one feels, sometimes it is something one can see too. Like in print. Like in The Daily Athenaeum piece on depression that I wrote about on Monday.

It was chock-a-block with ideas of stigma. But I chose not to believe it and instead I chose to fight.

Depression and Stigma

Stigma is “a distinguishing mark of social disgrace.” And there is plenty of “social disgrace” about having depression.

Among other things, people may consider you weak, emotional, vulnerable, unintelligent, a drug abuser and many other things that have nothing to do with having a mental illness. They are simply prejudices people have against those with depression.

And sometimes these ideas make it into print. For example, the idea that taking antidepressants long-term is prescription drug abuse is hugely stigmatizing. It suggests that those with a recognized mental illness should be considered the same as a drug addict who knocks over a grandmother for her pension cheque so they can buy crack. And this is in spite of the fact there is no evidence of any kind of which I am aware that alleges antidepressant drug abuse.

(Rest assured, grandmothers are, in fact, safe from those taking fluoxetine (Prozac).)

CB101969Fighting Stigma

So I won’t stand for it. I won’t sit for it. I won’t jump up and down for it. I simply will not have it. And I have said so both here and on my own blog.

I fought the stigma being spread by the ignorant reporting.

I started out with a blog article on my personal blog. Then I left a comment on the article itself. Then I encouraged my readers to leave comments. After inappropriate action from the paper I then wrote a further article both here and on my personal blog as well as sent emails to everyone involved with The Daily Athenaeum and I encouraged my readers to do the same.

I fought.

With a pen, of course, but I fought.

And the Winner Is…

Like most things in life I hardly think there was a winner between me and the stigma-inducing newspaper story. But I can tell you that I prompted action from the paper and, eventually, they did respond to my queries and the queries of others.

It was a little thing that didn’t change the world. But it was something.

And I’d bet my bottom dollar that the editorial staff at that paper will think twice before publishing something that inaccurate about mental illness again – and that is something too.

But the best part, the absolute best, is that I felt good about it. I felt good that my little voice could make a difference to a few pixels in the world. I felt good that my reasoned and reasonable argument prompted action and learning in others. I felt really good about not letting another slimy, misconception slide by.

Stand Against Stigma

I encourage others to do the same. Stand up for what you know is right. Stand against stigma and stand against misconceptions. Maybe you’ll change the world, but probably you won’t. But that doesn’t matter, because a small difference is still a difference that wasn’t there before you. And you’d be surprised how good your voice can make you feel.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

10 thoughts on “Fighting the Seen Enemy – Depression and Stigma”

  1. It’s always the right time to do the right thing. You definitely did the right thing by challenging the stigmatizing article! Thank you!

  2. Hi Natasha,

    I’ve been following this since your initial article about it and am so happy you used your voice to take a stand. I’m pleased John Terry, the managing Editor did take the time to reply, albeit without addressing the issues you mentioned, but it is still a positive outcome as you’ll now have your latest reply sent as a Letter to the Editor.

    Advocating can be very time consuming, frustrating and often times having little to no response, yet we do it anyhow because it is the right thing to do. I seize every opportunity to educate that comes my way as I feel it’s so important to at least make the effort and if they are unwilling to be educated or make change, then I know I have done what I could. You mention that it feels good to take a stand and I totally agree. It gives you a sense of pride knowing you did something to effect change.

    I find it’s always better to not go on the attack, to not use inappropriate language when doing advocating and to simply relay the message that you found it insensitive, inappropriate, labelling, stigmatizing, etc. When you put it in words as to how it made you feel, they cannot argue with that. So many are unaware of the impact of their words, it’s up to us to point it out in hopes they learn and don’t repeat. That’s what it’s all about :).

    Thanks for taking a stand!

    Take care, Barb

  3. Well done!

    My vulnerability is my strength because when I stand up to stigma & it’s often self stigma as well, it does feel empowering, especially when we provide sound respectful education. Many do listen, others don’t & that’s ok. if together we change a few paradigms and old thinking & behaviours than absolutely this is a huge step forward for others, certainly ourselves, because as you so eloquently stated, “it does feel great to stand tall & be heard”. slowly slowly this approach will catch the monkey! If we unite across the global & not give up on this, change will happen through people power eventually!

  4. Anyhow stigma on mental disorders as well as to depression is an unavoidable enemy, that impedes seriously the treatment of same morbid entities. Against the fact that it were achieved great advancement in the treatment of depression, it remain still a lot of undertaking counter stigma, as common social disgrace everywhere and any time. Hence, mentally ill patient and their close relatives should to deal lonely many social prejudices and misunderstandings toward their emotional difficulties, that are the consequences of chemical brain disturbances. In order to soften social disgrace on depression, it ought to undertake systematic antistigma campaign supported by governmental and non governmental association everywhere. Otherwise individual opposition, that You promote remain as single measure against this obstructive phenomenon. Better anything than nothing!

  5. Thank you Natasha for your actions, not only you help fight the stigma but you also educate the uninformrd, such as this student/writer of that article… I bet she’ll be more careful on mental health issues from now on!
    I’m curius to know how did the newspaper respond?
    You didn’t mention that and I think it is important-did they change the whole article, did they allow the comments back, did they delete the whole article?
    Thanks again, keep on fighting!

  6. hi natasha,

    u r right. we need to fight the stigma, for its often more debilitating than the illness itself. I’m really proud of you. girl, you courageously stood up and fought for what was right. i truly appreciate that.

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