Blog 4: Goffman’s Stigma–how larger society’s views HARM people with mental illness

Those stigmatized individuals (SI) afflicted with mental health issues often encounter attitudes and behavior from others which can be demeaning and dismissive. For a population of people already faced with the heavy burden of often unmet medical needs, the fact of them having such conditions often preclude them from the treatment they require. They are often put at odds, facing mistreatment from the healthcare professionals whose job is supposedly to take care of these Sis. Dismissed before they are even gotten to be known by those judging them, it is this mask of stigmatization which keeps people with mental health issues on the margins of society.

As examined in this video, Sis of youth are labeled by their teachers and peers early on, often leading to bullying and the fear to speak up (this cowering defense mechanism is used not in spite of a lack of options). They are judged early on and do not hold the fortune of being in a protective capsule for long (or at all). Even people who usually comprise the ‘Wise’ (such as parents, teachers, or medical professionals) will reject it as a legitimate problem in those they know and love. As articulated by one young woman, she is a “person first, diagnosis second.” The pain and suffering of unemployment, anorexia and bulimia, extreme physical pain, and a host of other maladies which can be experienced in the physical world—these are all things that could be prevented.

But because a broken mind is not seen the way a broken arm is, because this is an issue so misunderstood and so stigmatized real lives are ruined.

Here stigma has severe ramifications which can be prevented… but first we need to educate ourselves, develop and open mind, and a caring attitude.

When you see or hear of someone who died because of mental illness, try to look further than the surface cause. Maybe it wasn’t just asphyxiation that caused their death; maybe it was a hopeless life of tragedy, loneliness, and mistreatment.


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