“Stigma”? – Time to call it by its true name


There will be, can be no end to “stigma’ till we find within us the courage to call it by its true name.

“Stigma” is one of: deliberate, concerted and institutionalised misuse of language – the epitome of Orwellian “newspeak”; misguided enthusiasm for the latest buzzword; or else it is a simple mispronunciation.

It matters little how many “anti-stigma”, “defeat the stigma” or “end stigma” dollars we spend, no one “stigma”-fighter  can wash us whiter than any other, because no brand/ rebranding can remove the real problem.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that many of those “stigma” dollars end up spent with the same advertising companies that brand the same drugs pushed upon us as magical cures for whatever we can be convinced ails us.

All this talk of “stigma” is simply deploying that most modern of modern approaches –advertising away of all our anxieties, selling us fake solutions that do not adress the underlying problem. There is truly an elephant in this room – and the success of anti-“stigma” purveyors is being measured by how many of us buy their brand, use their words – and continue to turn a blind eye to that.

It is time to name this elephant, time to call this spade the spade that it clearly is.

The Doctoring profession recognises this though they have devised a far more clever-sounding name – “diagnostic overshadowing” – to refer to how, once a person has been diagnosed, doctors can tend to view any and everything that happens within a patient’s experience as confirmation of the diagnosis, or else dismiss it as a consequence or figment caused by the very “condition” identified by that very diagnosis. The person disappears and every subsequent piece of data is evidence that Doc has the “right diagnosis”. Thus is constructed the vicious cycle – the mental health vortex in which so many find themselves trapped.

People so diagnosed and such-ly “diagnostically overshadowed” die, research shows repeatedly,  20 years earlier than the rest of us – and not because of “the stigma” but because they are denied the same services as everyone else – in short, because intentionally or not, they are discriminated against.

It matters little how benign or fancy-sounding are the words we choose to name it, the thing we currently call “stigma” remains the very real act and especially the real effect of one group discriminating against another simply because they are different.

“Stigma” cannot arise within one person or within one brain – it cannot because it is the act by a society of placing a mark upon one of its own to denote that they are now categorized and deemed less-than-the-rest and deserving of, or requiring special “treatment”.

Is it any wonder that so many people do not come forward to ask for help when the “help” can, clearly, suck this much?

Yet, and all the while, we hear pontificators pontificate on how it is “the stigma” that prevents people asking for help, even of how it is their own “self-stigma” holding them back, and all we need do is stamp out the “stigma”.

“All we need is radio GAGA” – Queen

Bollocks, more bollocks and yet more bollocks.

The preferred downloading method de jour is to divert attention away from the real problem to the stigma-washing and advertising-speak of “stigma” and send us to social media like the good little ad-bait clickers we are. This is symptomatic of how stuck and lost and bereft of ideas we are that all we can think to do is spend money talking of “stigma” and offer highly clickable websites. Look beyond the strap lines and clicks and – mostly-  what we see is more messaging that blame-storms those very same people who have been marked for feeling the effects of having been marked – when we could use the same dollars to actually make a difference, to provide some services that actually help. 

Never has so much bollocks been spoken by so many with so little thought, such paucity of ideas – and so much of other peoples’ money to throw around.

Reluctance to come forward, confess to the sin of struggling, admit to being less than perfect and to bare ourselves as imperfectly human is not to feel “stigma- tised”. It is simply the very real, very understandable, very reasonable and even very sensible fear of being discriminated against should we do so.

Human history is full of vile and horrific examples of what happens when a society separates out one minority group to mark them, monster-ize them and other them; then having indoctrinated enough of us so we turn a blind eye or even collude, uses their propaganda and accumulated power to systematically reduce and remove legal rights, confine, trap, torture, encage them- and of course even worse.

There is undoubtedly an elephant in this room, and it is time to talk – time to talk about the true nature of this beast; and it is time to call it by its true name.

“Stigma” is merely the rebranding of good old-fashioned discrimination – the licensing by society of one group to discriminate against another and to mark them as less-than the rest of us.

If we do truly want an end to this then we will first need to recognise that talk of “stigma”- no matter how much we intellectualise it; no matter how well-intentioned; and no matter how much money we throw at it – is nought but hot air and hogwash.

“Perhaps there is a beast after all…  maybe it is us.”

-William Golding

The sooner we face up to this and face up to the fact that it comes from within the collective beast that is us, the sooner we can start to tame that beast.

Discrimination by any other word is but discrimination.

“Stigma” begins with a D and is pronounced “Discrimination”.

%22Stigma - F and D



About recoverynetwork:Toronto

We believe people can and do recover from "mental illness" - because we are living it. We believe in the power of supporting each other: learning from and with each other. You are welcome to join us..
This entry was posted in Ideas, Stigma begins with D and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Stigma”? – Time to call it by its true name

  1. Lisa Walter says:

    Fantastic. Stigma is a form of discrimination, of course, but a lot of people don’t get that. Thank you for your unapologetic stance. Roar!


  2. amyness says:

    awesome, what i was trying to express in a critique of art work at Capitol cafe today, the artist got mad at me( very suprised teh quite aggressive response towards me) thinking I was accusing him of anti antisemitism -i was trying to show the idea of racism and what the artist was trying t o convey (about racism, genocide of groups of people who are different, and of course stigma) and about our responsibility of all of us to heal our collective psyche. BLACK and jews of all people should understand this – or are they hypocrites too? I am trying to show “psychiatric assault” is very anti Semitic ….they ruined my life and for what being different and being in an energy healing that others hated me for? these kids can learn and if they dotn tehy are hypocritical and should swallow theri own hypocrisy.


    • Hi Amy

      I don’t believe in should: me should-ing is me thinking I know best what others need do. I don’t know, I try not to should.

      “there is no should, there is only do, or not do”

      I think I get what you’re saying – Many of those people who are discriminated against “psychiatrically”, if you like, are the very same peoples who have been discriminated against for their race, skin colour, religious beliefs, sex, sexual orientation. etc.etc.

      I believe it is, at least in a large sense, the same fight -the fight for all humans to have the same human rights. I think that’s kinda what you’re saying too.

      There is no them ands us and, as Ash Beckham says, “there is no hard-er – there is only HARD”.

      time to bring “stigma” out of its own closet and call it what it truly is.


Comments are closed.