Monday, May 31, 2010

The Sting of Stigma: Conclusion

Kate's and Kristin's experiences is one that too many of us have faced in this journey.

So is Mels and Julies, Steves, Rebekahs and every other wounded warrior who has fought the fight to exist in a world that treats them often as though they don't exist and are in some way "defective" instead of "injured" , "ill" vs "overwhelmed" and "mental" instead of "developmentally" traumatized.

In my own personal observations and life experiences it is this kind of treatment that fuels the isolation, shame and sense of hopelessness and helplessness that leaves some folks unable to continue to travel their life path, opting instead to hide their pain in addiction and other avoidance behaviors including acting out against others, or acting in in the way of self harm, depression, dissociation or even opting for that very permanent solution of suicide to a problem that is not at all as hopeless as we have been led to believe.

It is often said that a loving, supportive environment with clear boundaries is the one thing that makes a difference to someone struggling with the emotional and cognitive distress related to what is termed "mental illness".

But how often does this actually happen within home and family - or community? Even in the medical, mental health and social welfare systems "consumers"issues - from foster children to senior citizens - are often dismissed as attention seeking or med seeking and very often life threatening issues are dismissed as in the story of Mel's friend Julie or being "unheard" as in Rebekah's story here or the family rejection as in Kristin's comment in the post about Rebekah's journey.

So what's the solution?

Join me here next week to take a look at a paradigm shift from "mental illness" to "mental wellness" beginning with the idea of creating the life we want...on purpose:)
*** Stigma; a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation.Medicine/Medical: a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease

Q: What's your take on the solution to the "mark" of "mental illness"?


Lille Diane said...

You have a gift. Thank you for sharing it with us~

SaraBGood said...

as a trainer of peer workers, I constantly repeat that we are working towards mental wellness. I have witnessed miracles when people can begin to view themselves as working towards wellness as opposed to "being mentally ill." I know that for myself it was a turning point when I learned that I could embark on a journey towards recovery. That motivated me to get off the pity pot and move from a state of unconscious incompetence (where I didn't know what I didn't know) regarding social skills and cues to a state of unconscious competence (to making those skills part of my fabric)... I got there by developing new habits, exploring my values, introspecting, practice, hard work... I have been up and running now for 10 years and it all started with a person who believed in me and Mary Ellen Copeland's Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). So much more to say but enough... I believe that when people can start working towards being mentally well, things will being to turn around. <3

Susan said...

Thank you Lille:)

I'm glad you dropped by today!


Susan said...

Sara; your testimony is so valuable to this idea of making this shift. I would like it if you would contact me and stay in touch. You can message me privately at Facebook:

or twitter my handle is @zebraspolkadots

Great testimony!

SaraBGood said...

Thanks for the invite to stay in touch, Susan... I sent you a message on FB. I would love to stay in touch. Sara

Susan said...

Sara - I saw that and great! Thanks! I'm looking forward to getting to know you! Susan

James Clayton said...

Really interesting and thought-provoking. I'm not sure if thaere's a simple 'one-for-all' answer but the idea of focusing on 'mental wellness' instead of battling 'mental illness' may actually be hugely significant in helping sufferers and carers make effective progress.

'Illness' as a term has so many negative associations so shifting the approach or the terms could be really useful.

I look forward to seeing what other people think. Thanks for posting!

Susan said...

Thanks for dropping by James! I agree that this is not a "black and white" issue and I also agree that a simple mind-shift from an "illness" focus that left to a "wellness" focus can actually turn the tables for both those who have suffered and those who care about them.

This series drew quite the conversation when I originally posted it in May this year...there are some very touching stories throughout this series that you might find interesting.

Thanks again for your comment James - always great to see you!