Stigma and mental health ...

Anyone with a mental health disability will face some level of stigma from some quarter of Society.  Most of it stems from fear of the unknown.  People find it easier to cope with a wound that they can see and empathise with ... but when the wound is invisible it throws up all sorts of issues.

Definition of Stigma: 
1. A mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation.
A mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease: Eg the stigmata of leprosy
If you live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), you'll notice things because one of the symptoms is 'Hyper Vigilance'.  You tend to notice things that the average person will miss.  This is particularly true of Veterans that have served in hostile areas.  The ability to spot something out of place, could have identified a source of danger ... and saved lives.  The same skill is often used in the way that we look at people.  People that are skilled observers will notice little things like attitude, energy, mood etc, very quickly ... no matter how subtle it is.

I tend to be very open about living with PTSD and the effect it has on my life because I'd rather that a stranger avoid me before a friendship has developed than lose a friend through stigma.

Subjecting someone to 'Stigma' is the equivalent of rubbing salt into an open wound. It leads to further isolation and makes recovery very difficult.

I hope that if you have friends that encounter difficulties of this nature, you'll be aware that they suffer enough on a daily basis and that it would be nice to have people around that can make allowances for their disability without patronising or offending them.  Just ask your friend about what they need ... and if it's possible ... make it happen.  Eg If I go anywhere with friends, I sit with my back to a wall or I try to avoid sitting somewhere where human traffic is constantly moving around me.

If you have any sort of mental health condition, the chances are that you're hurting deep inside.  You may have become isolated.  You might be scared about the consequences of a diagnosis confirming that you have a condition. You might not know which way to turn for help. Stigma's the last thing you need to be subjected to.

It took a long time for me to be able to go to a stranger and say 'help, there's something wrong with me'.  Having admitted it to myself I got some support initially from the NHS.  Their support won't always be there though ... it's limited by a budget.  So we have to develop our own ways of dealing with the condition.

Don't let stigma stop you from getting the help you need.

Don't let stigma stop you from being a friend to someone.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

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