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painreliefsignMental Health – well really “they” call it “Mental Illness” Stigma is on-going and exacting a tremendously negative burden and price in many people’s lives. It is well-known and yet despite advocates and those trying very hard to dispel so much stigma, it seems to be on the increase and not on the decrease? Why do you think this is? I think it’s multifaceted. It has a lot to do with people’s fear, of what is to them, “the unknown”. It also has to do with those who fear their own mental health challenges and the stigma and shame attached by an intolerant world (in large part). This means lots more people suffer in silence and do not get the help and support they need. Even just acceptance and inclusion and validation can make such a huge difference in how people feel about themselves.

On Thursday September 11, 2014, I was lucky enough to be invited to a chat on the topic of Mental Health Stigma along with the stigma and challenges of Dystonia which is a neurological disorder that has a lot of people suffering in isolation, society and other-imposed shame when these people, like those with Mental Health challenges have nothing to be ashamed of. Shame lies with those who do not understand. The shame lies with those who discriminate and who do not respect those who they see as not like themselves. The shame lies with those who judge and bully and increase the suffering of others. If you cannot learn to care beyond what you might not first understand or know about, than at least be respecting and neutral enough to not judge and add to people’s suffering.

Isolation and alienation of those who have Mental Health Challenges or the neurological condition Dystonia or anything else that is a difference in life from the majority who are not “normal” just because they accept each other more at all. That’s an illusion. Our society, our world, is devolving into too much “image-management” and “exclusivity” that does not welcome differences. Society and culture are too focused on the escapism from daily challenges that are part of being human to the point that people would rather try to look like air-brushed celebrities on the covers of magazines than find balance, contentment, and peace in who they are just as they are for real in lives that even if lead in illusion or delusion are very much being led in reality.

Where are we as a world, as individual communities and cultures, when we ignore or don’t care of shun the people that need us the most? Even if you are not inclined usually to “go there” I hope you will think about that question. Apply the question to your life and answer it honestly and become a part of the solution (if you haven’t already) and stop being a part of the problem that only adds to the suffering of others.

Stigma around anything that so many view as not their issue or problem or concern should be a concern for each and every one of us in all its many forms about so many things in life, mental health challenges, dystonia, cancer, stress, anxiety, walking with a limp, anything that makes someone quite different from you or slightly different from you. I ask everyone to think about how little each one of us matters, in a sense, if we can’t be accepting and kind to others and especially to those who might just need a little more of that than others.

Differences of all types need to be accepted and tolerated. Differences are not an excuse to hurt someone else because someone needs or wants to put someone else down to feel better about themselves. We all need to ask this question, and live our way toward the answer: What can I do to help someone else today?

It’s about getting out of yourself more, despite the fact, that we live hectic stressful lives. There are people that too many in this world fail to care about and don’t even stop to consider because there but for the Grace of God they go, and so often selfishly and without even gratitude for that. No one is “normal”. Everyone has “issues” at some point. We are human beings, not human doings. We need to take time and make time to care about each other and especially to care about those that have to date been stigmatized and pathologized systemically and by society, culture, and media, to the point of suffering that you would not want to wish on anyone, or shouldn’t want to at any rate.

Are you a part of the solution? Or, are you still a part of the problem? Many people, themselves with Mental health challenges can be their own worst enemies. It all begins with a humble, compassionate centered individual sense of self from which you can than give to others in truly meaningful, way beyond surface ways. That’s what we all need to keep striving for and aspiring to.

Identify the prize. It’s the capacity to care beyond oneself and to have and give and share compassion with people different in many ways from you. It’s caring. It’s about being less self-focused and more other-focused in the sense of service to humanity and the reality that we are all in this together. We need to remove stigmatizing and pathologizing, limiting in any way obstacles of thought, pre-judgment, and indifference or “me-me” thinking and living and become truly inclusive because we are all more alike than we could ever be different.


© A.J. Mahari, September 11, 2014 – All rights reserved.


The On-going Stigma of Mental Health