Stigma is a word we hear a lot of in today’s conversations and discourse. But, what is it?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines stigma as being
“A mark of shame or discredit”
With that in mind, stigma could mean a preconceived notion (negative in nature), or stereotype surrounding a particular situation or set of traits. At least, that’s how I define it to myself.
How does this definition apply to mental health?
In our conversations about mental health and mental illness for the longest time and still today, we speak and have spoken about these issues in a stigmatizing way. And this shows through in so many ways.
To preface, stigma around mental illness dates back farther than I care to think, but in more recent history there is the horrors of “asylums for the insane”.
Doesn’t that just answer itself?
We see them represented in our current day media as settings for thriller movies, blood curdling novels, and even Halloween haunted mansions. The trope of straight jacket’s and padded walls that hold demented patients is so ingrained in our psyche that it presents a very challenging stigma around present day mental health hospitals.
Not only are these horrific images terrifying for people needing psychiatric hospitalization, but it paints such a shameful picture of inpatients in the eyes of society and in their own perception of themselves. When people in their shoes are flashed on movie theatre screens being depicted as monstrous and ghoulish, they start to believe that if this is where the need to be (the hospital), then they must also be a nightmarish creature, unworthy of empathy.
Which is so not the case.
When we don’t challenge these tropes, we are deciding its okay and justified that people with mental illness feel demoralized.
Another example of stigma is the belief that is an act of weakness that for masculine identified people to reach out. It is harmful and encouraging of toxic masculinity to endorse this idea.
But more on that in another post.
Thanks for reading this introduction to stigma, I’m Robin, have a lovely day