A few years ago five students at a Canadian college died by suicide in one summer. The administration attributed the cause as "the stigma of mental illness". Please note, they did not attribute it to teaching that stigma, to those teaching it, or to those believing it.
Subsequently, a professor there received a million dollar grant to study "the stigma". A few weeks ago CBS did a poll and stated the majority of Americans think there is a stigma to mental illnesses. They did not delve into how that thought got placed in those minds.
How does that thought get placed there?
I am 82, for many generations we were instructed (mostly sub rosa, in whisper, under the table, to think there is a stigma to rape. And we indeed thought it. Then in the 1970's, a small group of highly personally empowered women told us to stop, we had done enough harm. We stopped. I recall not the faintest trace of objection, we stopped. I realized for the first time I did not have to participate in that prejudice. It had never occurred to me before, I had just done as consistently told, I had believed what I had been instructed to believe.
I'd like to say that opened my eyes to how prejudices are induced in us, but it opened my eyes only to how that specific prejudice was induced in us.
Today we are being told to fight "the stigma" of mental illness, but not one voice has been raised to address those taught and teaching it. It is time we brought the fight to them, and as did those women in the 1970s, say: Stop. you have done enough harm. It is time we focused not upon the thought persistently placed in our minds, "the stigma'"of mental illness, but upon those whose mind it infects, dominates, and who, as a result, pass it on. It is time we socially distanced ourselves from it, that we not be a party to placing it in other minds.
We know the effect directing a stigma has, none of us need be the cause of those effects, We can just say, No.
Harold A Maio (83) is a long time mental health advocate whose main focus is language, the words we employ, the effect those words have. His advocacy has carried him to many states, the White House and invitations to speak in Berlin, London, and Ottawa. His work can be followed on the net.