Mental Health Stigma Hurts Us All  

“Take your meds, move along.” That’s what I tell myself every once in a while now when I am tempted to not take the medicines I use to stay somewhat healthy. Don’t get me wrong; there are times I gag when I put the larger ones in my mouth. I still take the medicine anyway because it’s the easiest way to take it. Some people need it as a shot every two weeks; some people can just take the medicine as a daily pill. (There are probably other ways, but I’m not knowledgeable in all of them.) Here’s the trouble: I know of at least one person who avoids taking medicine and would prefer multiple stays in a mental hospital. Why? Why do a large number of people avoid taking the medicine at all? Why do people not accept that the medicine helps? Better yet, why does it take extreme drama and possibly even a revocation of possible rights to get some people to take medicine at all? Could it be due to mental health stigma?

First, let us define stigma.

Stigma:

A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.  (Oxford University Press)

Well, isn’t that special? Having a mental illness is a mark of disgrace in this society. That makes perfect sense. People don’t want to be disgraced. The disgraced are hated and discriminated against. What does that lead to? America’s largest mental health facility is inside Chicago’s Cook County Jail. The disgraced are also criminalized, too, by the way. So it takes a crime to get a person the help they need without submitting to the stigma? Who has to suffer because of it? No, it’s no longer who has to suffer. The question is now this: Who has to die? How many people have to die before they recognize stigma does not work?

This is how stigma works: Stigma gets a person thinking they cannot be loved and accepted with the particular quality (aka Mental Illness), so they hide it. And hide it with drinking, drugs, eating, and maybe something else. Until it backfires and is revealed. Usually, there has to be a crime before somebody intervenes because then the person can be removed from society with approval, if they have not already done so themselves (ex. suicide).  Nobody wants to do anything, or even believe there is a problem at all, until the problem hurts permanently. Even then, some families of suicide remove the person from their memory, and try to make the problem go away again. Repeat the cycle until somebody finally speaks up, or until death affects the family visually. Or, maybe, until suicide becomes homicide.

So, what’s the solution? The solution is painfully obvious: end the stigma. Make it okay to take care of your mental health. Don’t make a person think they have to be Mental Superman. Mental Superman does not exist. I think you need to make it okay to take your medicine. Take your meds, move along.

Mental Health Stigma Hurts Us All

“Take your meds, move along.” That’s what I tell myself every once in a while now when I am tempted to not take the medicines I use to stay somewhat healthy. Don’t get me wrong; there are times I gag when I put the larger ones in my mouth. I still take the medicine anyway because it’s the easiest way to take it. Some people need it as a shot every two weeks; some people can just take the medicine as a daily pill. (There are probably other ways, but I’m not knowledgeable in all of them.) Here’s the trouble: I know of at least one person who avoids taking medicine and would prefer multiple stays in a mental hospital. Why? Why do a large number of people avoid taking the medicine at all? Why do people not accept that the medicine helps? Better yet, why does it take extreme drama and possibly even a revocation of possible rights to get some people to take medicine at all? Could it be due to mental health stigma?

First, let us define stigma.

Stigma:

A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.  (Oxford University Press)

Well, isn’t that special? Having a mental illness is a mark of disgrace in this society. That makes perfect sense. People don’t want to be disgraced. The disgraced are hated and discriminated against. What does that lead to? America’s largest mental health facility is inside Chicago’s Cook County Jail. The disgraced are also criminalized, too, by the way. So it takes a crime to get a person the help they need without submitting to the stigma? Who has to suffer because of it? No, it’s no longer who has to suffer. The question is now this: Who has to die? How many people have to die before they recognize stigma does not work?

This is how stigma works: Stigma gets a person thinking they cannot be loved and accepted with the particular quality (aka Mental Illness), so they hide it. And hide it with drinking, drugs, eating, and maybe something else. Until it backfires and is revealed. Usually, there has to be a crime before somebody intervenes because then the person can be removed from society with approval, if they have not already done so themselves (ex. suicide).  Nobody wants to do anything, or even believe there is a problem at all, until the problem hurts permanently. Even then, some families of suicide remove the person from their memory, and try to make the problem go away again. Repeat the cycle until somebody finally speaks up, or until death affects the family visually. Or, maybe, until suicide becomes homicide.

So, what’s the solution? The solution is painfully obvious: end the stigma. Make it okay to take care of your mental health. Don’t make a person think they have to be Mental Superman. Mental Superman does not exist. I think you need to make it okay to take your medicine. Take your meds, move along.

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