Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The shameful thing that is stigma

Stigma is one of those unspoken words. People whisper " You know he/she is a bit funny, you know, in the head". It is an improvement from the early 20th century when apparently otherwise healthy folk were thrown in an asylum to rot, frequently never to be mentioned. A sister of my father was never mentioned until recent years, when my mother said something. I still don't know what happened but I hope to dig in the records. Where do I start? I do have her birth certificate.

Stigma seperates friends and family. Stigma prevents people from getting jobs and sometimes from pursuing careers. People with cancer or physical illnesses, even "D" list celebs get treated with such sympathy. Other people get no sympathy unless they are "A" list and decide to be open. Stephen Fry is a case in point. He is that good egg, bipolar by the way. Neighbours and friends don't know much but they hear things and the curtain twitching starts. Friends back off in a nice way and eventually Christmas cards stop. No amount of apologies or pleading convinces friends or family that you are just ill, like cancer sufferers. Often the suffering is worse and over a longer period. It often ends in premature death, whether self inflicted or by other reasons. Research shows that bipolars are more likely to die from a range of "normal" illnesses.

There are reputed to be 2.4 million bipolar sufferers in the US alone. That is not a small number and it should be reckoned with. Most of them don't "come out". If that is not a result of stigma, I don't know what it is. There must be many more millions around the world. China has none because they don't recognise that mental illness exists. Very sad for the many millions of sufferers in China, wherever they are.

I have no problem coming out. I have special circumstances which allow that. I do encourage anyone to be as open as they can. We have strength in numbers and a Facebook group is growing in numbers. 183 members and counting because of the hard work of Colin Wood. I do my best to promote it on Twitter but it has to grow through word of mouth referrals. Please join up if you haven't yet. Tell your friends who have mentall illness issues.


There is also a anti stigma group on FB.


There is a bipolar group on FB.


An excellent website for friends and family of bipolars is at :


Please help to stop stigma. I hope my bipolar story does something to help the cause by letting everyone know what I have been through in the last 27 years. No one really knows, especially my closest friends and family. My neighbour knows more about me than anyone in the world. That is sad. If you are a friend or family of someone with a mental illness, please care for them and take an interest. Please do not brush them under the carpet and never to be mentioned in polite company. Make stigma stop this year. Make your MPs, senators and congressmen hear. Make your prime ministers and presidents hear.

1 comment:

  1. Well done on the blog and raising awareness. It is sad the way people treat others who are different from themselves.
    My son has a few problems and because people can't see his disability its hard to get them to understand.


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