Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How is stigma subtle in words and actions?

Stigma.
"A mark of shame associated with something"
Stigma can be something that is outright: "Did you see that (any mental illness ie:) "schizo" on the street?" (using slang terms is also a form of stigma, along with using the illness before the person, it should be "person with schizophrenia")

I have one personal story to share about stigma. Although this is not "outright" that was "outrageous" stigma, however, this comment stuck with me in a weird kind of stigma way.
I had one day in graduate school where I did a brief lecture on research in mental illness to  students. After the lecture, the professor thank me and said "it was great that I was such an advocate". I briefly told her that I had depression and she said "Wow! You are so high functioning for having depression"....

Okay, is it stigma? Yes I believe so, this is implying that everyone with depression must have an outward appearance of not functioning. ( to be diagnosed with clinical depression it includes an aspect of lower functioning in various aspects of your life.) However, depression is a mental illness that you recover from, you can be "high functioning" when you are on medication/therapy/in treatment and have an outward appearance to world of being "high functioning" but honestly, inside, I still feel as though I have a long ways to go. At this time, I was sleeping, 12-14 hours a day that included naps/actual night sleeping due to my depression and only going to the grocery store 1x a month. In my head when she made this comment, I felt a few things, I felt gratitude that she thought my depression was under control, although it felt not very in control to me, and then again I felt stigma because this implied that everyone with depression must have an outward appearance of not functioning. Although I suffer from depression, I am high functioning, and I do not think that "high functioning" is a proper word to use. Many others suffer from depression and a comment like this shows lack of awareness of how widespread mental illness is and how it can effect so many people that we like to think are "high functioning"

Okay-off my soapbox. This may be an awkward article to some, and might not make the most of sense but it's just something that hit a chord with me.

Any stories anyone would like to share would be appreciated.

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