Thursday, 4 June 2009

Stigmas And Stereotypes.

It seems to me we have some ways to go. The stigmas and the stereotypes, the foregone conclusions that certain segments of society perceive about mental health issues, is still prevalent.
There are people who are suffering with mental illness. They will not seek the help that is available. For, because of society's perceptions, they are too ashamed to admit they desperately need help in their world that is falling apart. To suffer is silence, out of fear of people's reactions; is a sad reflection on an indifferent, dismissive society.
It makes me wonder, and, perhaps it makes you wonder, just what it takes for the stigmas and the stereotypes to be eliminated. Mental illness can happen to anyone. Those that would mock individuals with mental health concerns, who think it is a form of weakness, I would urge them to think again. To those who think we should 'get a grip', it is not that straightforward, it is not that simple. To those who think that they would not be vulnerable to an overwhelming negative environment, think again.
Once upon a time, I thought that mental illness only happened to others. I was a 'tough guy', tough enough to overcome any obstacles that blocked my pathway. I was wrong. I was overwhelmed with a hysterical sense of doom. I fell apart, my confidence and self-worth became an insignificant speck, deep inside the mind of a tormented man. Relentless workplace bullying took its toll on my ever increasing fragile state of mind. I became a failure to my wife, I nearly broke the heart of our little boy who saw his Daddy becoming a weak, frightened little man.
Through sheer determination, and the vital help of those who empathise, somehow I stifled the flames of a mental inferno that came so close to engulfing me. Yes, I am still not very well, yet I realise that my mental illness is only a small portion of who I am. I can choose how much of my life it controls.
So this tough guy got humbled by his illness. To those who know me, who mock me, yet fear me; I wonder what the mocking is all about. Do these people who think me weak really believe that they could handle a negative environment that tries to drown their humanity? Do they fear me because they think I might have a funny turn and attack them? Do they think my mental illness is contagious? Do they fear me because they have concerns about their own mental health?
It is our responsibility to create a more positive environment. The mental health wellbeing of all of us depends upon it. It is time for those who continue to label us with stigmas and stereotypes to understand that a friendly, more understanding, more compassionate and respectful society will benefit all mankind.


  1. A very informative blog and I found myself taking notes; I have needs that I'm working with other people on. Though I wouldn't be comfortable discussing anything openly just yet.
    A solid foundation in mental health wellbeing is necessary. You're absolutely right concerning the living environment we choose... and the society we begin to educate. Very well said.

  2. I am saddened to think that there are people who mocked you. You should be very proud of your achievements. You have won through to a better life. Carole.

  3. hey,gary,you and i both know ,that its what people do not know,that they fear.there wil always be the bigots, who refuse to face the truth,but many people ,simply have no experience of mental health problems[either directl,or indirectly]education can play a big part in reducing stigma.i, too have had my life blighted by bigots,and the ignorant.and ,with your help,have learned to like myself,this gives me a greater understanding of my place ,in the scheme of things.may you continue to grow in stature, and wisdom peace, bigman

  4. As one of your respondents has said, stigma is born out of fear.

    Lack of understanding leads to fear leads to stigmatising, bullying and the rest.

    Another response is to be curious. What is it that I don't understand about this thing? in your case a mental health issue.

    And one way we can understand things is for those who experience them to talk about it.

    That takes some courage for not all of us want to admit to being 'different' in a way that could be seen as a weakness; most people will hide a perceived weakness.

    Yet we all have them in varying degrees.

    So maybe it is your readers who should be humble.

  5. Dear Dixie,
    Thank you for your comment. Although parts of our living environment may seem to be beyond our control; we do have choices to make our environment a healthier place for ourselves and for each other.
    Through greater awareness and understanding, stigma, in all its undesirable forms, can be gradually reduced.
    Thanks for your kind input, Dixie.
    In peace, Gary

  6. Dear Carole,
    Thank you very much for dropping by and responding to my blog.
    The good news is that those who mocked me have, through, what I like to think is my friendly nature, have become more relaxed around me. I consider this to be a significant step in the right direction.
    Those who do not know of my mental health issues; see just a chap who is trying to bring a smile to their faces.
    Thanks Carole, I remain positive that our world will become a better place.
    Warm wishes, Gary

  7. Hi David,
    Indeed, it may be fear of the unknown. Education, informed and fair media coverage, would go some ways in redressing the balance.
    I would say that the people who ridicule those of us who have experienced mental health issues; should understand that overwhelming circumstances can lead to a concern about mental health well-being.
    Thanks David, stay strong and please stayed focused on positivity.
    Kind wishes, Gary.

  8. Greetings to you, 'A Write Blog',
    Very nice of you to drop by and leave a comment. I shall be visiting your blog soon.
    You bring up a very good point. Through communication, through curiosity and trying to know a bit more about why someone is experiencing their issues; people can become more aware of how events, circumstances and genetics can play a major role in our mental health well-being.
    Ironically, want once made me weak, has now inspired me to be strong. I challenge myself as I challenge others to be a part of a more positive, more caring, understanding society.
    Thank you, my friend. Kind wishes, Gary.

  9. Gary, people tend to fear what they do not understand, and you are right...they often consider mental and physical disabilities to be 'weaknesses'. One should never mistake these things as weaknesses. It takes more courage than most people possess to speak out about their perceived failings.

    Only a courageous person could share their experiences and offer words of comfort to others in the same situation.

    I say, never judge someone unless you've walked a mile in their shoes, and never mistake the gentle heart as being weak. That gentle heart is probably the most heroic of all...

    Stay strong, my friend, and keep offering your strong sense of compassion and empathy to others. It is a great offering...


  10. Hello Klahanie!
    I completely agree with what you have written. The unfortunate thing about mental illness is that it is not visible. If you scrape your knee there is a scab that forms and eventually falls off. Not so with the mind. I am not sure where this attitude came from but logic says it was the hungry thirties where everyone was starving and they all had to whiteknuckle their way through to the next day in order to survive the horrors of starvation and no work. It has permeated our thinking about all things especially those unseen. Keep up the effort my dear, you are very worthy and do a lot of good for others in the same situation.

  11. Dear Mattie,
    Thank you for your words of wisdom. You are so right that people tend to fear what they do not understand. This is where tackling the unfair stigma that is attached to so many facets of our lives needs to be addressed.
    I hope that through transparency, those that are curious, or those that are concerned about themselves or someone they know; they can be more understanding, more compassionate towards people they fear through lack of knowledge.
    As usual Mattie, wonderful, thought provoking input from your kind self.
    So glad to see you blogging and sharing your beautiful poetry with us. You are a positive ray of light in our world. I thank you for that. Stay strong and smile.
    Warm regards, Gary.

  12. Dear Heather,
    Thanks so much for your wise and highly interesting contribution.
    I know you can relate from an empathetic viewpoint. Indeed, mental health concerns may not be obvious in a way that can be detected by vision alone.
    The 'Great Depression' may just have some bearing on today's society. Survival, at the cost of others and indifference towards our fellow man; has caused many to believe this is a 'me' society and to heck with the rest. No wonder so many folks are stressed.
    You are a brave, strong lady, Heather. I know what an altruistic project your blog is. I am here for you, my dear friend. We are all in this together. All different, all equal.
    May the gentle notes from your wind chimes play sweet music to your soul. Kind wishes, Gary.

  13. Dear Gary,
    Well, I'm sure you know where I stand on this one. It seems your other commentators have more or less said it all.
    Anyway, I still feel that it is stigma, as much as illness itself, which prevents many of us leading the independent, fulfilling lives we deserve and it is great to be working with you on perhaps trying to dismantle just some of that prejudice and stigma at MAGMH.
    Again Gary, All the best and see you soon,

  14. Dear David,
    Thanks for your empathetic response.
    It is indeed my privilege to be involved with good people like you. Challenging the stigma and bringing awareness is something we both aspire too. I do believe that our interaction is helping to reduce the stigma that is attached to mental health issues.
    Thanks David. See you soon. With kind wishes, Gary.

  15. Hey Gary - I agree totally about the stereotypes, and can relate very much to having a deep rooted fear of people's reactions to my own mental ill-health. But for everyone who has ever mocked or criticised you, there must be at least one other who - like me - has been both helped and inspired by your openness and honesty. Keep fighting the good fight! I will if you will ;-)

    Julie xo

  16. Hey Julie,
    I'm so glad that I click on to the 'subscribe to follow-up comments'; or I would have otherwise not noticed your excellent comment.
    Occasionally, I take one of my archived blogs and send it back through 'Facebook'.
    Anyway, the good news is that I have been involved with some decent, non-judgemental folks out there in three dimensional reality and via my blog etc., who want to learn more about situations that can cause one to have mental health concerns.
    Your blog, is a great source of inspiration and is indeed transparent. I am sure you will have helped others as you continue to help yourself.
    I will, like I know you will, keep fighting the good fight:-)
    In peace and empathy, Gary


I do try to comment back to each commenter individually. However, I might have to shorten my replies or give a group thank you. That way, I can spend more time commenting on your blogs. Thank you and peace, my friend.