Break the Silence of Stigma Around Society’s Negative Beliefs.
Pain ought to be temporary, and not refer to someone’s life story, right? What is so frustrating about invisible conditions is they also automatically come attached with that cumbersome and oh-so-unkind form of discrimination: stigma. An ugly word that has even uglier consequences.
When Owen Jones, the journalist and writer of the moment, stormed off the Sky studio set, following a discussion about the horrific mass shooting in Orlando, I related to this young man’s stance. And many others understood. Pushed to the limit by closed-mindedness, there is only one way you can go, after exploring every intellectual avenue: away!
Bullies used to do this to me at school. As I recall, I used to huff off, like Mr. Jones, to a quieter place, where I could gain solace. And although I may not share all of his life-given characteristics, I do know what it is like to be different, to be viciously mocked for this, and excluded because of it.
I am not alone: addiction problems, being gay, suffering from mental health issues — all come loaded with their own special kind of stigma in societies worldwide. People are not only battling with their demons, but also with social disapproval and society’s negative beliefs.
After the untimely death of the talented singer, Amy Winehouse, Billy Bragg was quoted as saying the following:
“You know, in the 1960s, you kind of understand it, because they were the sort of the first generation. They didn’t really know what they were messing with. But now, you know, you can see those kind of things coming, and I think we should be spending a bit more time intervening.”
An uncomfortable admission, however, is the truth about drug addiction, and it could be applied to other stigmatized conditions.
When my psychiatrist diagnosed me at a tender age, he cried. He knew then I was damned, written off, and would incur the wrath of society. For many years, I would struggle with that diagnosis, shirking all ambition, but somehow, in my human spirit, hope was not extinguished.
As I have lived my life, my strength and resolve has grown, and I wish I could go back in time and have someone saying to me these soothing words, which the present Archbishop of Canterbury has uttered:
“Mental illness is just illness, no more or less bad. The problem is that it often does not involve physical signs, and people with mental illness get stigmatized, isolated, ignored, and that makes them worse.”
Maybe Billy Bragg is right, we were all complicit in Amy Winehouse’s demise. I implore you that now is the time to challenge stigma. Let’s find our wonderful humanness and help everybody have a happy life, and not let them fight the unnecessary battle of stigma.
Let’s pressure politicians to invest in our fellow human beings who are suffering. Break the silence, and if you are hurting, tell your story to add weight to the case for change.
Conditions are indiscriminate, and in my case, if there was a cure, I would take it tomorrow, knowing I would not lose anything about myself in the process.
Acceptance is powerful, something that all human beings are capable of offering.
Allow those who are different this power and crusade for a kinder and more open-minded world!
Keri France is a sensitive and strong soul, who believes in the power of creativity for personal growth. Originally a southerner, she has returned to live in Manchester, after 19 years, and has found a new confidence since her relocation.