Friday, October 31, 2008

TO WRITE: Alternatives to Discrimination
I've been listening closely to advertisements for haunted houses this Halloween season. Last year an organization whose name I've gladly forgotten got national attention for creating a scary experience in what they called a mental hospital or psych ward, and for using numerous terms derogatory to the mentally ill, as well as trying to frighten people with the ideas of straight-jackets and unanesthetized electroshock treatments. Probably without thinking about what they were doing (I'll give them the benefit of the doubt here), they were painting mentally ill people as frightening, violent and dangerous. We are none of those things. Fortunately, after many letters and much protest, the group changed their theme entirely.

We've all probably felt some stigma around mental illness -- the comments from others that you should pull yourself out of your depression, or the dismissal of one's symptoms and oneself as "psycho." Very sadly, the worst result of the stigma around mental illness is that it causes many people to NOT seek treatment that could help them.

Play with this. . .
There are three sections to this exercise. First, write continuously for 10 minutes about any stigma you've been the object of for any reason -- your gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, height, weight, age, etc. Then write for 10 more minutes on stigma you've experienced or observed pertaining to mental conditions. Finally, write for five more minutes on what you could tell yourself or that stigmatizer that would make you feel better about the situation -- perhaps pointing out to your boss or relative that you are coping with an actual illness and you are working hard to get well, or perhaps giving yourself a positive affirmation or self-talk to counter an uninformed or unkind comment.

1 comment:

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