Lila’s Weekly Blog – Workshop Analysis Part Four: Defining Stigma
When asked what stigma is most students described it as an unfair or false judgment or assumption about someone, something that had negative connotations around it, and something that created shame which silences people and prevents them from reaching out for help. Many students also mentioned that stigma stems primarily from ignorance and a lack of education about mental health and mental illness.
Stigma is a huge problem to tackle and there isn’t one single solution that is going to fix it. However, I think a crucial step for future generations to grow up in a less stigma filled environment, is to teach psychology courses starting in middle school or high school, and have more extra curricular options about mindfulness, stress reduction, and mental health in general. I learned about these things in college, but if I had already learned about them in middle school or high school, higher education would simply extend the practice, instead of having to do damage control from the years of not knowing.
How Stigma Feels
The sixth question is “how does stigma feel?” The top five most commonly listed words were isolating (mentioned 26 times), shameful (17), frustrating (15), lonely (15), and angry (13). It’s understandable that stigma makes people feel angry and frustrated, but what’s most concerning to me about these results is the isolation and loneliness, which I think stems directly from the shame. Many people feel like taking care of their mental health or having a mental illness is something to be ashamed of, which in turn makes it harder to reach out for help and support, leading to increased feelings of isolation.
I’ve found that stigma is a really vicious cycle. Even though I know there is nothing to be ashamed about, sometimes I still feel embarrassed when my mental health is suffering. I always try to remind myself that it doesn’t matter what people think, because I know myself, I know what I need, and there is nothing wrong with the way I am. However, it becomes aggravating having to deal with the ignorant comments people make about mental health and mental illness. I’m a sensitive person, and even though I’m strong, sometimes I find myself dwelling on those comments. Although I know it’s important to try to educate others and have conversations about mental health with them, it can be exhausting. I try not to outright hide my mental health issues from others, but I definitely keep quiet about it much more often should. I can tell it makes others uncomfortable, and then I get uncomfortable, and so the cycle of isolation begins.
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