May 21, 2012

Are we giving too much power to mental illness stigma?

NAMI groups and others have been waging anti-stigma campaigns for decades. The stigma is said to keep people from engaging in treatment or really addressing their problems.

I think we give stigma too much credit. When we don’t go after it in a precise fashion, it becomes a shortcut for our own shortcomings, the excuse we give when we don’t engage people or an issue effectively.

Here’s the cycle: We do what we know is not effective. Or we know what might work, but we don’t do it. We make bad choices because of economics, or politics, our own shortcomings, or simple expediency. People suffer, then we claim stigma. We’re not guilty because the other person is insane.

We think we are protecting people with mental illness when we hide them from the world. That just limits their options.

We claim that only experts can solve these problems. That keeps most of society from having a role.

We train police to subdue and kill people with mental illness. We know there is a better method, but it takes more training, and takes a little more time with each incident. The limiting factor here is economics, not stigma.

1 comment:

Mental Illness Policy Org said...

Amen. I wrote on this for Huffington Post in an article entitled, "There's no Stigma to Mental Illness"