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
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).)
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.
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.