Labels of Stigma in Depression: Called a Cutter at Clinic or Crazy or Insane
"It's all in your head." "Insane"
"Crazy" "Lock her up!"
"Snap out of it!"
"You just want attention"
"You belong in a looney bin"
The Midweek Muse explores the *STIGMA* of mental illness
This week I want to explore the theme of stigma with regard to depression and mental illness. I think we have all been there. There are times when friends, family, professionals, and the general public give you indication that it is not okay to be depressed.
A time in my life which stands out to me for feeling the brand of stigma was when I sought emergency treatment for my depression. I was in a bad way and in between insurance coverage and went to one of the local mental health clinics. There I was assessed by a very haggard and no nonsense attendant. When she asked me if I had ever caused harm to myself I truthfully answered that in my teen years and early twenties I used to cut myself.
In a big bold flourish she then wrote the word, "CUTTER" in big red letters in the middle of a page on my file. I stared at that and said, "No thank you" and pretty much ran out of the building. I wanted help not an iron brand.
There is a certain pain in being "found out" that you suffer from a mental illness. And I think much of it has to do with the stigma and labels attached which denote that something is "wrong" with you. As a little girl and teen I lived in fear that I would become my mother and become psychotic. That did not happen fortunately but I still live in some dread of that word, "crazy."
In my journals from my early adulthood you can feel my fear in my writing:
"I hid my sadness so well...nobody knew. Or perhaps I didn't hide it so well and nobody cared. Same effect really. Sinking...sinking...to the bottom. Alone isn't that bad...nobody to bother you or hurt you. Smile through the pain. Be good. Be quiet and nobody will know."
I did not want to be labeled as my mother had been her whole life. I kept quiet about my depression.
But decades later I feel differently In order to fight the stigma of mental illness you have to break free from the fear of being judged. I understand now that I can help myself as well as other people if I share my experiences.
And you can too.
Tell us how stigma has affected your willingness to share about your depression with others. What words hurt the most? What are you most afraid of in telling others of your depression? Who have you told and how did you do it? Remember that your words can be powerful and healing. We want to hear what you have to say.