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Stigma Within Stigma

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Stigma Within Stigma

Stigma.  It's everywhere and it affects everyone. Mental illness still in the 21st century is clouded by stigma. There are people suffering in silence because they believe asking for help is a sign of weakness. Imagine having your head filled to the brim with despair and disorder and having no where to go. The removal of stigma around mental illness has come such a long way in the last 20 years but we still have so much further to go.  

Amongst the mentally ill there is still stigma. I've lost count of how many times I have said to myself that I need to keep my mouth shut, need to buck up and deal with it. This is something that I have been dealing with personally for 11 years. Yet I still tell myself the same thing that I hate hearing from others.  Things that I would never say to anyone else. 

Self harm has a whole different level of stigma.  It's a stigma within a stigma.  Even those who suffer from a Mental Illness, who engage in activities that many think are outlandish, ideas that stray from the norm, see people who self harm as some kind of person to be revered.  There have been many conversations that I have been involved in, in an inpatient facility where other patients have struggled to see the need and desire behind the action of harming oneself. 

Society sees people drinking to excess, and almost turn a blind eye.  It's seen as people blowing off steam, almost a societal norm.  They are seen as coping mechanisms, nothing more.  People who drink to excess every weekend are 'ok'. However they are doing the same thing that people who self harm are doing.  Hiding the pain, replacing it with something else.  Yet people who physically harm their flesh are seen as monsters, attention seeking and sometimes just plain stupid. 

Self harming is a coping mechanism. It's a dysfunctional one, I will admit, but it is one nonetheless.  However with so much stigma around it, people are covering it up, pretending it doesn't exist.  Why NEED to talk about this.  We NEED to say it's ok to tell someone that you aren't coping.  We NEED to treat the symptom not the behaviour.  A person who self harms is not a monster, they are simply reaching for help when their words don't work.

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