If you were to start a campaign to curb bullying – wanting to appeal to the bullies themselves, would you create a campaign entitled: “Bury the Bullying”? Would that appeal to those bullies, to help them see – we all hurt, & that “hurt people, in turn, hurt people”? Would it curb their habits, or instead re-enforce their identity as bullies?
The word “stigma” per Webster is: A set of negative & often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.
That last part – “a group of people have about something” is key. Like bullying, when we point out those who do hold stigma for others or even verbally abuse others – in this case Mental Health – we’re drawing a definitive line between those of “US” who are accepting & those of “YOU” who are not.
Having a brother who’s had cancer 2x, once in the 80s & again 90s, I became all too familiar w stigma against those with what was called at the time: The Big C. It was a diagnosis most were afraid to talk about, because of the “stigma.”
What was a big part of the campaign that got us over the stigma against those w cancer, to the point where now cancer is one of the most donated to causes in the world, & we are supportive of most anyone suffering? The campaign became: “Everyone knows someone affected.” Everyone! It could’ve been you, a sibling, parent, friend, but we all knew someone. It tied us together. It wasn’t those suffering vs. those w a negative view about them.
One of my idols is MLK Jr., & his iconic speech about equality (tho we still have a long way to go), is of course known as his “Dream” speech. In that speech, in his dream, here were the words he used – a world where: “little black boys & black girls will be able to join hands w little white boys & white girls as sisters & brothers.” He did point out some of the mistreatments that were unacceptable & some of the people behind those mistreatments…but he knew to bring about change, his MAIN message, his campaign, would be most impactful when leaving people w the image of unification as opposed to “sides.”
For so long now in this space: Stop the Stigma, Stomp the Stigma, Stamp the Stigma, Screw the Stigma, etc., have been used because of the alliteration of the S. I can’t sit back any more as an advocate & hold back my belief that the way we use these “Stigma Campaigns” furthers the divide.
We, who want change & want to see others treat this topic differently, are telling others who look at this topic differently that they must stop. When has this tactic worked when bringing about other societal changes? When has calling out another “side” even if indirectly, unified us?
Don’t we need instead to come together in our similarities? In how we’re all affected? In how we all have felt pain & stress & yes even down & out at times? I’m sorry if I become public enemy #1 by pointing this out. Let me say boldly that I think the great people behind the stigma campaigns have the best intentions in mind, and work tirelessly to bring about change. But, until we make these campaigns about INCLUSIVITY & our SIMILARITIES, I don’t see that line between us going away – no matter how many celebs share their stories, no matter how many articles are written. Let’s instead talk about our similarities. We all face challenges in life. Those challenges affect our Mental Health. #SameHere🤙!