DJ Jaffe, Executive Director of Mental Illness Policy.org, has come out and told it like it is. In a letter to the editor of City Voices, the consumer mental health advocacy journal, he dispels the myth about stigma.
I’m taking the liberty of typing his letter into my blog:
There Is No Stigma
Stigma is defined as a “mark of shame” or “token of disgrace.” Mental illness is not a mark of shame. It is not a token of disgrace. Mental illness is–like many other illnesses–a no-fault disorder. Yet many persons with mental illness believe there is stigma. Why is that? It is because many in the general public are prejudiced against, discriminate against and dislike persons with mental illness. Some with the illness, rather than recognizing the bigotry, prejudice and discrimination in others, believe them and as a result have come to believe there is stigma–that having a mental illness is in fact a “mark of shame.”
Unfortunately, their belief system is encouraged by mental health advocates and organizations that go around teaching there is stigma. This is wrong. People with cancer, gays, African Americans, lefties and other once believed there was stigma to their circumstances for the exact same reason others discriminated against them. Over time, these groups moved from believing there is stigma to fighting the bigotry, prejudice and discrimination in others. Few believe there is stigma to having cancer, being gay, leftie or African American anymore.
It’s time to move on. Mental health advocates should stop teaching people with mental illness that there is stigma. Start teaching there is none. And start fighting bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination in others.
I’ll come here on Thursday with my response to the editor’s letter.