The Journey From Stigma to Shame

Stigma – ‘A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person’. Now, I think that’s harsh when considering the ‘stigma’ towards mental health. Imagine calling your friend a disgrace because they had just broken their leg. However, reading this made me curious. What is the definition of disgrace? The loss of reputation or respect as the result of a dishonourable action. Harsh! What about the definition of dishonour? A state of shame or disgrace. This is what I found really interesting. We find ourselves having gone full circle, but now we have shame to consider also. The definition of shame is ‘a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour’. So, do people with mental illness feel humiliated or distressed more than most because of a feeling that they have done, will do or are doing a wrong or foolish act? I do! I feel shame for many of the things I have done whilst unwell. I feel more humiliated and distressed as a result of these events. These feelings may even be contributing to my continued ill health through low confidence and self-esteem. I feel that shame is a far more appropriate word than disgrace. If stigma for mental health was defined as ‘A mark of shame associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person’, I would not argue it as inappropriate.

I think we need a change of narrative. We need to see the stigma towards mental health patients more as a factor of shame rather than a factor of disgrace; literally Putting Stigma to Shame. Shame is what we feel every time we are or we think we are stigmatised against. Disgraced seems so sharp and severe.

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