S is for Stigma

S

Stigma is the negative attitude directed towards people who do not conform to society’s expectations of normal.  Those with a disability, mental illness, intellectual disability, those affected by substance abuse, the elderly, the indigenous and the list goes on.

“Stigma’s power lies in silence. The silence that persists when discussion and action should be taking place. The silence one imposes on another for speaking up on a taboo subject, branding them with a label until they are rendered mute or preferably unheard.” 
― M.B. Dallocchio

There is a process of stigmatisation:

  • We recognise the difference
  • We devalue the difference
  • We shun the difference

As we discriminate against differences we fuel our prejudice that causes us to retreat from those we have stereotyped.  An example could be people who have a mental illness or physical disability.  It is not uncommon to hear discriminatory statements like:  people with mental health issues are dangerous, violent, and/or strange.  If we use the media as a sole source of information we are likely to accept the prejudices of the presenter or TV station, newspaper or radio.  Historically the media has treated those with mental illness with fear, mistrust and dislike.

Internalised stigma is an internal evaluation by people who judge themselves against societal norms.  It is the private shame that depletes, reduces and whittles away at self confidence, esteem, dignity and causes self-doubt.

“I shouldn’t be like this.

Why can’t I just get well?

What’s wrong with me, what have I done?

Breaking down the barriers of stigma and leaning towards an inclusive society we all need to take responsibility.  Raising awareness of the struggles of those with a disability and perhaps spending time in their company would help reduce prejudice and cause us to re-evaluate our preconceived judgements.

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