Why is the stigma of mental health so endemic? What makes otherwise intelligent, logical, non-biased people believe that mental illness completely defines a person?
Fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of personal safety, fear for the safety of our loved ones.
Recently, I’ve decided to go back to school. The first thing that happened is unexpected backlash from someone I least expected. This person expressed primary fear about my ability to handle a master’s program because of my mental health. This person enumerated all of the reasons why I should not go back to school because of my mental health. The danger to myself I could become.
My therapist suggested that I find out what kind of accommodations the school would be willing to make if my mental illness flares up. But doing that would require me to disclose my mental illness to the school. Talking to accessibility services would be confidential, but disclosing to the actual program could be detrimental to my success. It could end my new career before it begins. And this is how stigma is propagated. If I allow my fear to stop me from telling my academic adviser about my bipolar disorder, then I’m not doing everything I can to fight the stigma of mental illness. But I also risk being discriminated against.
This is how stigma maintains through fear. We have to fight the faer with facts and logic. We have to stand up to the fear and refuse to back down, refuse to give up.
Fight fear with strength and love. Be a light. And if you face discrimination, stand up for yourself and remember that your stand just might smooth the way for someone coming up behind you. You’re stand is doing the world a service.