Thursday, 28 February 2013

stigma begins and ends with psychiatry

Let's not kid ourselves.  Stigma is caused by psychiatric labels given to vulnerable people in mental distress.  The fact that society then reinforces this stigma by alluding to the labels, of schizophrenia and other mental disorders, doesn't mean that the person in the street is to blame.  

Therefore anti-stigma campaigns should first of all be directed at psychiatry.  Targeting society doesn't make sense to my mind for they are only playing at 'follow my leader'.  As long as we can be judged mentally ill on the basis of a collection of symptoms, labelled as a disorder, then there will continue to be stigmatising newspaper headlines and segregation of people with mental illness.

In Scotland the anti-stigma campaign See Me gets around £1million from government funds to challenge stigma and discrimination.  Their vision "A Scotland where people with experience of mental ill-health, and those who support them, are fully equal and included.".  Their work to "Change public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems, Involve people with direct experience of stigma, Work with the media and to Work locally with partners".

These are admirable aspirations and work goals but I still maintain that the stigma of mental ill health begins and ends with psychiatry.  For the people who are forced to enter the psychiatric system to the people who get anti-depressants and benzos from the GP gatekeepers.  The fear of a psychiatric diagnosis or label is ever present because they are indelibly written in psychiatric notes.  

Although I did recently get my schizoaffective disorder label marked as being in perpetuity.  I'd have preferred it to be completely erased and this is my long-term goal.  Because I don't believe in diagnoses which are psychiatric constructs, given by professionals who didn't know me as a person and didn't understand my state of mind at the time.

Ignorance is no excuse and I've said it before.  The stigma from psychiatric labels in my family's notes have carried down through the generations, justifying forced treatment and slandering of reputations.  Requiring resilience, strength and resistance on my part, to recover from the trauma of psychiatric treatment.  And to help family members do the same.  You might describe is as being a resistance fighter.

I'm not prepared to put up with stigma and the inevitable fallout from being 'different'.  And that includes stigma within the mental health world and in the psychiatric system, from refusing to believe the prevailing regime or collective position.  To be equal doesn't mean to conform.  Here's to those of us who are non-conformist and who challenge stigma at its very roots.  Slainte!


8 comments:

  1. stigma is due to misinformation and fear. Psychiatrists get taught at medical school one thing and they believe without quetioning what they have been taught. Then the same information is passed on to the public as ultimate truth. The idea that "schizophrenia" is not curable for example: you can only be in remission, that means, people think, that you can go mad and become dangerous at any moment out of the blue. If that is the case nobody will trust you with a responsible job etc. It is all a vicious circle.You are even not allowed to be angry at the situation: it would be clear proof that you are mad.

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    1. Thanks for posting. I agree that the system is unfair and weighted against people with psychiatric labels/diagnoses.

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  2. I have been getting increasingly cross about my diagnosis of schizophrenia recently - thank you Chrys, for putting the outrageous injustice of labelling into such concise language. I hope you don't mind me linking to this piece on my blog. Louise x

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    1. Hi Louise - thanks for comments, that's fine about linking this blog post.

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  3. Naturally, the mental health industrial complex wants to deflect attention away from its own failure to actually help large populations of people get well. So, it has decided to turn "stigma" into something shameful practiced by your friends and neighbours. I don't like these anti-stigma campaigns because I feel they are dishonest. The less well people are, naturally, the more stigma they will suffer from others. The healthier they are, the less they will be discriminated against. Failure from the "helping professions" to help more people feel good about themselves and see a future for themselves, is stigmatizing.

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    1. Thanks Rossa, yes I agree with you about the anti-stigma campaigns being a type of diversionary tactic. Keeping people occupied in something that won't make a real difference to the power imbalance, in psychiatry and in society.

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    2. The anti-stigma campains are honest and well-meaning enough but you can't force people to relax when the press is full of horror stories. Most people who don't know anything about mental illness want to be safe that is all they are interested in. I must admit that I didn't know much about stigma until my son got caught up in it. I hadn't thought much about it, so may be these campaigns have a role to play. Ideally of course psychiatrists should stop labelling.

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    3. I agree. Psychiatrists should stop labelling. Until then, in my opinion, the campaigns will be powerless to change society's perceptions. For society thinks the mad people are locked up in asylums when in fact they are living among us and look 'normal'. As in it could be any of us.

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