“I feel uncomfortable about the use of the word stigma in mental health campaigns. But, I haven’t been able to put my finger on what my disquiet actually is,” writes Mike Smith, vice-chair of the International Mental Health Collaborating Network in The Guardian. Smith then explores the meaning of the word stigma, and suggests that, instead of talking about ending stigma, we should be talking about ending hatred and bigotry.
“The religious and historical roles of madness in society are further reinforced with elaborations in these dictionaries of the stigmata, a further derivation of the word stigma in medicine, meaning a ‘mark that is a characteristic of a defect or disease’ – hardly very progressive and politically challenging,” writes Smith. “The focus of our efforts should be upon society and the perpetrators of this discrimination, not the subjects of it. If we accept the concepts of parity of esteem, then we should describe not stigma, but rather bigotry, hatred, unlawful and unjust discrimination. Accepting the application of the word stigma reinforces this prejudice and does nothing to challenge it. We must challenge the status quo not accept it.”
The word ‘stigma’ should not be used in mental health campaigns (The Guardian, October 10, 2014)