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Stigma and Society – Family and Friends

Stigma is dangerous. It is cruel. It is amoral. It needs to stop. Stigma does not benefit anyone.

In earlier articles I have talked about the impact of stigma on the person and the economic damage it can cause. In this article I will outline the harm it can cause to the family and friends of a person with a mental illness.

People with mental illnesses never suffer alone. When they suffer it affects those around them. I know this first hand. I have seen the impact my suffering has had on those around me, both my family and my friends. I also have family, loved ones and friends with mental illnesses, so I know first hand the impact another person’s mental health problems have on others.

When you stigmatize someone, you drive them to hide their problems. You drive them to ‘cope’ on their own. They try to do this because no one wants to be treated like they are lepers. No one wants to be shunned.

Have you ever been around a family member or a friend that had just lost a loved one? Do you remember what it felt like trying to comfort them, but not being able to take away their pain? Do you remember how much it hurt you not being able to do more for them? Do you remember what it felt like feeling helpless and powerless to ‘make it all better’? Do you remember how the feeling got worse with each day that went by and your hands were still tied? Now, remember the day that the person ‘turned the corner’ and started feeling better and how much it helped how you felt.

Now imagine what that must feel like if that sense of hopelessness never went away. Imagine what it must feel like to have that sense of hopelessness turn into frustration or a sense of failure. Imagine what that does to a person and how much that person suffers along with the person who has the mental health problems.

It tears them apart. It can lead to problems within the family. It can lead to broken homes. It strains relationships. Stigma is dangerous. It is cruel. It is amoral. It needs to stop. Stigma does not benefit anyone.

Friends and families do not get the help they need to learn how to cope with and support their loved ones who are suffering. They are afraid or ashamed to admit that someone close to them has a mental illness because they too are afraid of the stigma. They do not want to be looked down on because someone on their family isn’t “normal”.

These kind of problems could be drastically reduced if we just put an end to stigma. Stigma can tear apart families and communities.


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