I detest the word “stigma.” It makes my skin crawl because no one takes personal responsibility for it. I hate the way it sounds. I hate to even say it.

I prefer calling it the “S” word, but nobody knows what I mean because “stigma” is so ubiquitous and so convenient.

Do you know what  it means? Discrimination and Prejudice.

Add two more words to that definition: Fear and Ignorance. Negative Stereotyping. Unnecessary Barriers.

Get the picture?

There is no stigma. Just prejudice and discrimination. When you say the word “stigma” you actually incite “stigma.” Linguistically, it’s an etymological trick, a praeteritio. Nasty stuff.

Let us ban that word and call it by its proper names. Discrimination and Prejudice.

Perhaps then, people will take personal responsibility for their own attitudes and ignorance and fear and prejudices and discrimination. May even attempt to change their attitudes. Learn more. Understand more. Become more empathetic. Compassionate. Kind. Inclusive. Maybe.

But will anyone accept that their attitudes are prejudicial and discriminatory, that they have a problem? Perhaps by changing the language we can begin to change our culture, and our collective conscience? Am I asking too much?

Certainly, we, who live with our psychiatric histories, who internalize our diagnoses, seem to suffer the most as a result of these sick misguided prejudices and discrimination. This irrational fear and ignorance.

“Stigma” isn’t some black cloud, out there in “society.” The word is constantly misused and misunderstood.

Here’s some background on this blighted word…

3 Comments to
Day Two: The Toxic Word ~ “Stigma” ~ Ban it!

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  1. *round of appause*

    I agree wholeheartedly with you regarding the word ‘stigma’ and how it turns prejudice and discrimination into a big black amorphous cloud about which no one has to do anything.

    I do however disagree with you regarding being a sufferer and a survivor. I have and continue to suffer terribly with my mental illness as do others, and I don’t at all think this is a negative reflection on me. It just is. And since mental illness can be fatal, I believe the word survive is suitable in some cases. I have survived intense suicidal depression which has threatened to take my life more than once, just we we say that someone has survived cancer.

    • Dear Alana,

      You are welcome to disagree with me and I am thrilled that you expressed your feelings so openly, eloquently and honestly.

      I do not feel comfortable calling myself a survivor. And I don’t feel “suffering” describes my life with my mental illnesses. Bipolar Disorder with psychotic features and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) though I tend to starve more than binge. This is a completely personal choice for me.

      For many years I have thrived between my manic episodes and they are now well controlled by medication. As for suffering with my mental illnesses, I am only too aware of their potential fatality. A year ago, I was struggling with my untreated eating disorder, having almost constant suicidal thoughts. I was suffering terribly. Now, with treatment, I am not.

      So, for me, surviving and suffering don’t feel like comfortable or appropriate words. Now. That’s me. By no means do I suggest that what works for me should work for everyone.

      We will have to agree to disagree and that’s fine. It’s so courageous of you to express your disagreement and I am grateful to you. I’m sure there are many others who feel as you do.

      Please take care and be well. I hope your suffering ends soon. You are not responsible for your suffering. I would never want you to think that.

      Fondly,
      sln

  2. Thank you again and again and again. You have so eloquently written about the words and ideas that have caused me to quietly seethe. When I hear the word “stigma”, I want to quietly ask the individual from whose mouth it dribbled, “Are you stupid? Do you know the definition of that word?”
    When someone once referred to me as a “survivor”, I asked him didn’t he think we all were survivors?
    “Commit suicide”…Good grief people, get a clue and a dictionary!
    I could but won’t rant on. I’m just so glad there are others, especially you, who are willing to shed light on the uninformed and hopefully set a few people straight.

    • Dear Judy,

      Thank you for your support. I’m sure there are many, like us, who “seethe” with the insensitive language of mental health. What we need and what I’ve proposed is a “Language of Respect.” We are human beings, first. We are all human beings. I’m afraid the educators need to be educated. I’m afraid the psychiatric profession is riddled with discrimination and prejudice. The media needs to be educated, too.

      But we, you and I, must keep speaking up, as you have here. I am so grateful to you.

      Keep correcting people. Keep stating the right phrases and words that accurately describe our mental illnesses and challenges. Let us help to end the unfair treatment we receive often because language is riddled with inaccuracies that reinforce negative stereotypes and prejudice.

      Your voice is so valuable. I thank you, wholeheartedly, for speaking out here.

      Fondly,
      sln

  3. Glad to see you writing again :) Your body work is inspiring me to do the same. Looking forward to 30 days of Sandy!

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