A Word on Wednesday: Stigma
Eleanor Roosevelt once said,
“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”
When we think about Mental Health Awareness, we often hear pleas to stop the stigma. Stop the stain, the blot, the tarnish that is mental illness.
By definition: The noun, stigma, refers to a mark of disgrace; a stain or reproach as on one’s reputation. Medically, this is a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease.
Mental health care advocates work tirelessly to rid societal-level conditions, cultural norms, and institutional practices that breed stigma.
It is my experience the most damaging stigma is the internalized stigma. It is our own voice beating us down. We do this, because we believe the lie that having a mental illness is disgraceful. By living that lie, health is denied, and we damage ourselves farther.
The internalized stigma is often far worse than the actual discrimination or consequences of accepting a mental illness as part of one’s overall health condition.
We don’t have to feel this way. We don’t have to feel less than.