Guest Post – Where Does Stigma Come From?


Well, I have come to the last guest post I have for you on the topic of mental illness awareness and stigma. And I believe it is very appropriate for the actual Bell Let’s Talk day. It is a follow-up by Julie Ryan to the post I shared a few days ago on the Stigma of Mental Illness. I hope you find it as informative and interesting as I did. I have had to deal with all three types of stigma she mentions and I can say that none are better or worse than the others.

I hope you have enjoyed this series of guest posts as much as I have presenting them. I hope this will lead to more sharing in the future.


Where Does The Stigma Come From?
By Julie Ryan, Counting My Spoons

Welcome back! I’m so glad that you are here again.


After my post last week about the Stigma of Mental Illness, I received an email that got me thinking.

  • “The Stigma of Mental Illness
  • The Stigma of Rape
They are the same allegations. Funny how we transfer a prejudice rather than end it.
I stopped claiming the latter, maybe you could stop claiming the former.”

I’m not 100% sure what he was trying to say. I’m guessing that if he’s reading this he’ll probably email me again to clarify (and I hope that he does). I chose not to reply to the email directly but rather to share my thoughts here, because while I wasn’t sure what he was trying to say, his message did get me thinking about where the stigma comes from, whether it’s stigma of chronic illness, mental illness, or even (as he referenced) rape.

All 3 of those things have two big things in common:

  1. There is a stigma attached to the label
  2. The person dealing with the stigma (or the illness or rape) has no control over their situation.

While we may not have any control over our situation we do have control over how we think about our situation and that’s really what this blog is about, it’s about learning to look at our situations differently and try to find the positive in them. Whether the situation we are facing is illness (mental, chronic, or otherwise), rape, or some other negative situation in our life. We can choose to look for the positive.

So, where does the stigma come from?

The stigma comes from many things, both internal and external. What I got from this email was that he was saying that we need to set aside the internal stigma attached to these things, and with that, I agree. We can’t expect those outside of our situations to look at us any different than we look at ourselves. If we think negatively of ourselves, blame ourselves for our situations, etc then others will do the same. However, if we can let go of our own stigma, our own blame, our own guilt over these situations then we can begin to expect others to look at us differently as well.

We often get what we expect. When we expect that people place a certain stigma on us because of our situation we will see their actions as proof of the attitude. However, when we can look at others and try to find the positive intentions in their actions rather than seeking the negative we might see things differently. Will a change in our own perspective remove all stigma that others may apply to us based on our situation? No, absolutely not. But, at the same time there may be those who were not applying any such stigma but because we were applying it to ourselves we saw it in them.

When we begin to treat others as if we have nothing to fear, and they have nothing to fear from us. When we treat them as if we are no different than they (whether it be in looks, actions, or illness) then they will begin to treat us the same – for the most part. There will always be outliers, there will always be jerks, but when we encounter those people we have to remember that their action is not a reflection on us, it is a reflection of who they are and of what they are dealing with in that moment. They are bitter because they are dealing with their own issues, and often those issues are not too different from our own. We can choose to treat them with kindness, both in action and in thought.

Choose to release the stigma you hold against yourself, and others will follow. After all, normal is just a story we tell ourselves. I’ve never known a single “normal” person in my life, but I know many who walk around upset at the world and bitter. I’ve been that person, but I choose not to be. I choose to use all that happens to me to learn, to grow, and to help others whenever possible. I choose to #StoptheStigma and I choose to start with myself because I can’t control what anyone else thinks, says, or does.

First posted in Counting My Spoons
Used by permission

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: