Is a Little Stigma Better Than None?

Chaya Grossberg
22
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An anti-anti-stigma campaign

The whole anti-stigma campaign is something of a joke. Google the word “stigma,” see for yourself. Mental health labels are inherently stigmatizing, yet the industry that was responsible for creating and perpetuating them, simultaneously pours money into anti-stigma campaigns which will come up right away on your search. They tell us not to stigmatize people who take psychiatric drugs for these labels. While I agree, as a politically correct (sometimes), compassionate (sometimes) person who aspires to be humble (mostly), stigmatizing anyone for anything can be hurtful, there is a fine line between an anti-stigma campaign and repressing discernment in the general public.

Is it possible to stigmatize actions but not the people who take those actions? In theory, yes. In practice, inconclusive, but we must not allow the anti-stigma campaigns to cloud our judgment, silence us, or tell us to accept everything, every behavior, everyone being on psych drugs, etc. It is fishy that the same people who created the stigma to sell their products are now demanding we not stigmatize people for using their products. They are basically saying, “Don’t stigmatize people who are bringing us such immense profits. We must protect the oblivion (in some cases) of our customers so they will continue to generate income for us.” In this case, perhaps a bit of stigma (or better words: discernment, non-acceptance, intolerance) is better than repressing those things.

What if cigarette companies/Big Tobacco ran anti stigma campaigns? Much of advertisement is actually some form of an anti-stigma campaign. Advertisements for all things unhealthy have beautiful, healthy looking people in their ads to promote their products and give the message that by using them (even cigarettes, alcohol, candy, etc) you will also be beautiful, healthy and stay forever young.

Pharmaceutical companies, of course, do this too, featuring happy looking people to sell their products. The irony is this creates stigma against being human and having sadness, difficult emotions and grief. Having natural emotional reactions to life is stigmatized but if you get a mental health label and “take your medication” you suddenly have a whole group of comrades to defend this anti-stigma campaign with. You have a place in society now, that is being guarded by those who profit. At least there are guard dogs fending off the stigmatizers. At least you’re not that sad, “depressed” person in black and white in the anti-depressant ad. We can stigmatize her in our ad-until she takes our drugs. Then she’s safe from scrutiny. Then we’ll shame you for suggesting there may be a better way and the drugs may be doing more harm than good. Is stigma, in this context, a dirty word for caring?

Let’s all stop being so intelligent and stop using our brains! Let’s sit in front of TV all day smoking cigarettes, eating GMO snacks, drinking Pepsi, popping Benzos and let our party line and dying words be “End the stigma,” when the real stigma was the initial one. The real stigma is the stigmatization of our humanity-unlabeled, free and wild. The real stigma is against sensitivity, intelligence, introversion, feelings, grief, creativity, uniqueness, brilliance and pain.

How’s that for politically correct? People who commit to accepting their feelings and nature make far worse consumers. They are much less likely to buy or get addicted to your products. So you’d better keep stigmatizing them if you want to stay afloat Pharma!

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Chaya,

    Thank you for another great post.

    A person who has certain symptoms is labeled “mentally ill” if they are poor. A person with the same symptoms who is financially successful is considered “eccentric.”

    Go figure.

    IMO, there would be a lot less stigma if more people did their best to do these two things:

    1) Avoid the mental health system
    2) Work

    I’m not implying that short-term counseling or therapy doesn’t work for some. I’m also not saying that all people are able to work; but I do think work may be the most therapeutic tool available, even if it’s part time or volunteer.

    Duane

  2. I Am.

    Having been you, you, you’d to death …

    A person begins to attempt to know their own self FOR themselves. They start the journey of the I Am.

    I have astigmatism. See the stigma in that word?

    Years ago, I wrote out a calendar. I arrived at 2020. I thought of “perfect vision” and a bunch of other thoughts. I thought of how everything that Humanity is going through will result in a final Balance (by or around 2020). And in that balance, we’d have something like “perfect vision” with a lack of stigma.

    That’s just me, being lofty in my Mind. It’s up to Humanity to cultivate what they want and believe in. I can only share my views and thoughts – FREELY, I’m never paid – and let people take what they want from it.

  3. Hi Chaya,

    Thank you for the brilliant post. You have made so many excellent observations about this “anti-stigmatization” sham!

    Introducing… Selective Stigmatization Reuptake Inhibitors! Recent studies have shown that these new, cutting-edge attitudes target the specific areas of the brain that trigger troubling skepticism regarding the treatment of human problems with neurotoxins, and thereby work synergistically with the anti-fill-in-the-blank-profit-generator of your choice to alleviate bothersome symptoms. Side effects may include contempt for those who reject such notions, impaired judgment, frequent or urgent NAMI meetings…

  4. I was at that same program you attended. If you really did not know what you were going for than why did you go? I feel that the comments you have in your blog is erroneous and highly unprofessional. Active minds is VERY easily found online if you would like to further educate yourself (and your readers) on who we are and what we stand for. We are PEOPLE, not of the medical profession. While we do not want to be “labeled” by people in society, a “label” does at least give us a grasp and a first step at researching our illnesses. What people do with that is a different story. There were a lot of different speakers who shared their experience, strength and hope. In order for some people to speak up they do need to begin understanding their illness or their relatives illnesses. We achieved what we set out to achieve, no thanks to your derogatory comments at the event which turned a lot of students away from the RLC. The RLC is a great source for people and it is a shame that HCC students will now think your viewpoint is the solitary viewpoint. As people grow mentally they tend to understand a little more of what we were talking about and didnt already come with preconceived attitudes and notions of what to expect. I would think that at the very least, they would know what they were coming to and why. If not then I suppose, all they would have to do is ask. And not throw out questions that are purposefully written to confuse.

    • Hi Cgiroux,

      I noticed your comment on the front page comments panel of this website, and I agree with what you say, here. Although my feeling is that you intended to post as a response to Sera Davidow’s blog, “I Love…Stigma?” since you talk about having attended a program like the one she describes. Although please correct me if I’m wrong.

      I looked up Active Minds, and it does look like a really wonderful program. I wish something like this had existed when I was in college (over 30 years ago!), because it would have been very helpful and supportive to me. Instead, I had to go it alone, which was incredibly hard and frightening, needless to say.

      I agree with you that it is our journey to take and our stories to tell, our way, and that this is what gives us our ownership and sense of self. As we continue to share our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and our experiences, we gain much insight into who we are.
      To me, this is the humanity of our experience.

      I’ve had a long journey myself, which began when I was in college. I’ve since come off of all medication—which had been a lot–and re-defined myself as my story evolved over the years. I did a lot of soul searching and personal research on my own, and discovered new and fascinating perspectives as I went along. For sure, it’s a never-ending process, which, to me, is what makes life most interesting.

      I made a film a few years ago, in which 6 of us tell our stories, our way. I did not direct anyone on how to tell their stories, I allowed everyone to tell it their way, in present time. There were no scripts, rehearsals, or re-takes, we simply all spoke our truths from what we believed in our hearts at that time. I simply edited it for time, but aside from that, there was no censoring of individual perspectives. We don’t all have the same viewpoint, we are diverse in our perspectives, and part of the film is a discussion we have amongst ourselves, where we dialogue openly about our individual self-perceptions. There is some overlap, and there are also differences, which made it all most interesting during the process of filming.

      The film does, indeed, center around stigma, not just toward those who are diagnosed, but about stigma in society, in general—which I feel is a powerful and dangerous tool, that leads to a lot of harmful self-judgment, if we buy into it—which is hard not to do at first, until we discover our own voice of truth for ourselves. To me, that is where our individual personal power lies, and nothing is more healing than that, in my experience. Whatever our experiences are, and however we perceive ourselves, we are all in a process of growth and personal evolution, and it is up to us to discover who we are, by way of our own individual process. No two processes are the same, so I love to learn about others by listening to how their processes unfold. To me, this is the most fascinating and moving part of our journeys as human beings.

      My film, Voices That Heal, is posted on cultureunplugged.com, and is part of an online film festival called Spirit Enlightened. If you’d like to check it out, here’s the link:

      http://www.cultureunplugged.com/storyteller/Alex_Goldenberg

      If you feel it’s appropriate for others you know, or for the Active Minds program, feel free to pass it along. You can also check out my website, if you like, see if anything here speaks to you. http://www.embodycalm.com.

      Thanks for adding your voice here, can congratulations on your courage and truth-speaking, very inspiring.