Originally published in the HealthyPlace Mental Health Newsletter online
The word stigma is a detestable word. It exudes hatred and misunderstanding. To be stigmatized, to face stigma, is to be judged not for who you are but for a misunderstood label.
Mental Illness Diagnosis Beginning of Facing Stigma
Mental health challenges are common. It takes strength to seek help. Part of the help sometimes involves getting a diagnosis, such as an anxiety disorder or schizoaffective disorder or dissociative identity disorder or any other term used to describe what’s medically called a mental illness.
Unfortunately, this diagnostic term sticks. Sometimes people feel shame about having a mental illness so begin to self-stigmatize, using a label to define who they think they are because of the medical term. Sometimes, friends, family, coworkers, and even strangers become confused, mistaking a diagnostic phrase for the whole person.
Regardless if the stigma comes from within the person or from outsiders, it’s a lie. A term for a (mental) illness is only that: a medical term. It gives a common language to what someone is dealing with in order to make healing easier. Nothing more. Don’t be fooled by stigma. A diagnostic label of mental illness is only something you’re dealing with. It isn’t who you are.