Just to let you know… after reading all of the awesome, important and interesting facts about stigma, please keep reading because I have posted some examples of the stigma and discrimination I have faced during my life.

I hope it will be very interesting, enlightening, surprising and maybe even horrifying to you to read these true examples of stigma many people with mental illness face today. I have more examples of stigma I have faced during my life but I figured this post was long enough.

Happy reading. I hope you like this and find it interesting and helpful.

Stigma is:

  • a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person.
  • a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart.
  • a mark or sign indicating that something or someone is not considered normal, standard or typical.
  • Something that takes away the worth or value from the character or good reputation of a person or group of people.
  • a strong lack of respect or a bad opinion for a person or a group of people because others think they have done something society does not approve of.
  • When a person is labelled be their illness they are seen as part of a stereotyped group.
  • Negative attitudes create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination.

Stigmatized people face experiences and feelings of:

  • shame
  • blame
  • disgrace
  • distress
  • humiliation
  • hopelessness
  • lack of support
  • reluctance to accept and/or seek necessary help
  • misrepresentation in the media

Three out of four people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma. 

Many people (including me) who have been stigmatized feel as though they are less than a whole person and are a tainted person. They feel different and devalued by others. This can happen in any setting and by many people, even in their own family.

Generalization occurs that creates these groups that stigmatize people and sometimes unfairly puts them into groups and biased categories based just on their labels they have been given and not by their actions, behaviors or their characters. They are sometimes thrown in with a general group of people for no apparent reason regardless of how well they actually fit into that group.

When society categorizes individuals with mental illness into certain groups they are sometimes subjected to status loss and discrimination. Society will start to form unfair expectations and stereotypes about these people or groups of people, especially with the more severe labels of mental illness such as Bipolar Disorder and schizophrenia.

There is still a big stigma with Bipolar Disorder because of things people hear on the news. For example, when they say things on the news like the man who just killed six people at the gas station has bipolar disorder people inaccurately generalize and make assumptions that everyone with bipolar disorder is violent. This is so untrue as most people with bipolar disorder are not violent people at all. I personally could never hurt anyone or anything… unfortunately have tried hurting myself though.

Many people believe that the stigma of mental illness has improved and decreased significantly. I say it is not even close to being reduced and minimized to the point that it should be by now. Of course, it has gotten better if you want to compare it to the 1920’s or so when people were thrown into insane asylums for the rest of their lives and given medications that turned them into walking zombies. Well, it has improved since then, but it still has not improved, been reduced or eliminated enough.

For those of you that do not live with mental illness and think that there is no stigma of mental illness, I would like to give you examples of the stigma, discrimination and prejudice that still exists today.

Stigma I have faced during my life living with my severe Bipolar Disorder

I taught Special Education for about ten years before the symptoms of my illness became too severe and I had to quit teaching. Before my diagnosis, the teachers respected me greatly and were my friends. The parents of my students liked me as well. However, when I was hospitalized with Bipolar Disorder and they called me during one of my hospitalizations and found out that I was in the “Psych Ward” they were horrified and wanted nothing else to do with me and never spoke to me again.

After I had to resign from that teaching job due to the severity of my bipolar disorder, I found out that some of the teachers that once respected me and were my friends referred to me as the “crazy” teacher.

Before my diagnosis, I was married, was very close to my parents and family and had many friends. After my diagnosis, I got divorced, my family distanced themselves from me and only spoke to me when I was well and I lost every one of my friends. I lost everyone and I became all alone beginning my life of a lonely existence.

Sixteen years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter Alexia, my bipolar disorder symptoms became very severe and I was very depressed. I had trouble even leaving my bed, taking a shower or really doing anything at all.

I lived, survived and fought my severe bipolar symptoms I was having at the time to save and protect my baby that was growing inside of me. However, there were times I just could not move or get out of bed so I missed a couple of my OB appointments.

My doctor and the nurses at the clinic knew I had Bipolar Disorder of course. So after I missed a couple of appointments, a nurse called me up and told me that if I kept missing my OB appointments that they could take my baby away. What? What on earth did they just say to me? Are you kidding me? That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life and boy did that piss me off!

You better believe I made it to my next OB appointment and asked my OB doctor if any other pregnant patients have ever missed their OB appointments and he said they had.

I told my OB Doctor that the nurse threatened to take my baby away if I missed anymore appointments. He apologized and said that was very wrong and he was very sorry.

If I knew what I know now you better believe I would have reported that to anyone and everyone I needed to so I could report the stigma and discrimination I just faced. Unbelievable and this was only 16 yeas ago.

About five years later when I still had hope of being able to teach again, I got a new Special Education Teaching position at a different school district. I was feeling very well at the time and my teaching was going wonderfully. I loved teaching and was very happy to teach again and I was proud of myself. When they found out somehow that I had bipolar disorder they fired me. I did win a wrongful termination suit and won $15,000.00. My attorney told me that the School District did not want to have a teacher teaching in their school district that had a severe mental illness because parents do not want to have teachers teaching their children who have a severe mental illness like Bipolar Disorder. It may be different with depression compared to Bipolar Disorder as Depression is more common and is beginning to become a little more accepted than Bipolar disorder.

Only about eight months ago when I was working and doing daycare at the YMCA, I had to be hospitalized once because my bipolar symptoms became very severe. When I was well enough to go back to work, I told my boss. My boss knew I had Bipolar Disorder and her reply to my returning back to work was that she wanted to make sure everyone would be SAFE at work before I returned. What? I asked her if she would say that to someone who had Diabetes and she said no. She knew she messed up and started crying. By the end of the conversation I was the one comforting her so she did not feel bad even though I was the one that was just rudely discriminated against.

Yes. Stigma rings loud clear!!! Could you hear the stigma bells ringing loudly? I sure did!

These are just a few of the examples of the stigma I have faced throughout my life. There have been many more and many of them have been recent.

Ugh! Stigma Pigma!