Stigma is dead

Stigma is dead.

Stigma was eradicated years and years ago in many people who suffer from no-fault biological diseases. For example, stigma used to exist in men with prostate cancer and women with breast cancer. It also existed in people with no illness at all: gays, lesbians, the left-handed and other historically marginalized populations.

But over time all these groups found a cure: they simply decided that there was no stigma to having cancer or being gay, lesbian or lefty. It was not, as some claimed, a “mark of shame” or “token of disgrace.” Period.

They killed stigma and recognized that what they were really suffering was prejudice and discrimination.

While eliminating “stigma” was relatively easy, requiring only a change in their own thinking, the battle to eliminate prejudice and discrimination was much harder and is still ongoing, because it requires changing others. But importantly, eliminating prejudice and discrimination couldn’t be done without first recognizing that the alleged “stigma” that was preventing everyone from speaking out didn’t even exist. Stigma was killed, and everyone moved on to focus on the real enemy: prejudice and discrimination.

Mental illness advocates should do the same. Declare stigma dead and move on to focus on what really exists: prejudice and discrimination against the mentally ill.