Stigma. Where does a stigma find its source, the headwaters of a deluge of misinformation and misconception. In point, how do we as a community develop stigmas?
A stigma is engineered as such:
- An opinion without facts is a bias.
- A bias affects decisions and this is prejudice.
- Enough people believe this bias and prejudice and now it’s a stigma.
There is an inherent harm with stigma beyond just “hurt feelings.” For example, if a lover is imbued with bias, prejudice, and stigma, “outing” oneself can destroy that relationship . . . although I hold that if a lover isn’t accepting of a behavioral health condition, then they really don’t deserve you anyway.
Further, a stigma canb adversely affect an individual’s employability. Too many times I’ve heard at DBSA Albuquerque support groups, peer focus groups Stand Up To Stigma holds, and other collaborating peer groups of a peer losing their job for being symptomatic, such as being too tired and isolated to go to work (much less take a shower) or too agitated for fellow employee comfort (I was fired many times for this). I’d hope employers would step up and address this; it’s still a work in progress.
And how about family? In our collaboration training law enforcement, so often officers tell us when families call 911 for a peer in crisis, the attitude is “We’ve had enough. He/She is your responsibility now.” This brings up the reality that often law enforcement officers are a peer’s only advocate when in crisis, and this is deserving of its own article.
Another stigma is one held by law enforcement, that peers are always in crisis because that’s when they see us. Police only see us at our worst, not when we are living productive, happy lives. After three years of APD training, I can say the most satisfying product of our sharing our stories is hearing officers share, “You’ve put a human face on peers in crisis. I now know peers aren’t always ‘crazy’. Peers can be reasoned with.”
What is the solution? Education, heading it off at the pass, and facilitating understanding.
Here’s the contribution of Stand Up To Stigma in breaking down stigmas:
- Education through peers sharing their personal life experiences.
- Understanding of the peer experience, putting a “human face” on peers.
- Changing people’s minds and attitudes by peers sharing facts rather than bias, prejudice, and stigma.
Stand Up To Stigma has an ever-growing team of peers ready to share their stories. These are brave individuals who are willing to make themselves vulnerable, open and honest, knowing that their bravery and fortitude will make the changes every person who faces stigmatization needs to live a happy, productive, and successful life. We welcome all opportunities for Stand Up To Stigma peers to share of themselves for the betterment of our communities.
Best of mental health to you,
CEO, Stand Up To Stigma, LLC