Ending the Stigma

stigma

Like it or not, persons who suffer from mental illness are surrounded by  a negative stigma in our society.

Persons who suffer from mental illness are sadly a very misunderstood people.  Many in society act as though they are modern day lepers, expecting them to be assaultive at any moment.  Being afraid of any category of people fosters disdain and not understanding.

“Many of the problems confronting people with mental illness result from public misunderstanding about psychiatric disorders.  At the most harmful levels, these misunderstandings, rob people of rightful life opportunities.” (Patrick W. Corrigan)

Much of the negative stigma surrounding mental illness is a result of misunderstanding these conditions.  First, and most offensive (in my opinion) is that mental illness is under the control of the person.  When it is viewed as being under one’s control, people are more likely to avoid, withhold help and endorse rejection of the mentally ill.  Second, is the belief that the mentally ill are responsible for causing their condition.  This distorted thinking leads to fear and anger.  Fear and anger in turn lead to social avoidance, social rejection and often times refusal of services or product based upon personal biases and lack of understanding.

Mental illness is often surrounded by the stereotype of being dangerous.  The label of danger evokes a fear response which leads to social isolation, rejection and perpetuation of these negative stigma.  When someone discloses their mental illness, often times this provides society an opportunity to label and fall into the negative stigma black hole.  When you reference their mental illness as a reason for rejection, this is a wrongful betrayal to another of God’s creation.  If you are a business owner and you reference one’s mental illness as a reason for rejection or refusal of services and there has never been a threat or inappropriate action in the setting of your business venture, you are begging and setting yourself up for ADA involvement.

You may be fearful because you don’t understand how another’s mind works.  You may be fearful because of how you interpret one’s actions or one’s words but it may not be how/what what they intended.  Have you really tried to understand why you are fearful?  Is it a direct result of a face to face conversation with the one you are afraid of?  Is it a result of another person’s opinion?  Is it a result of your interpretation of written words?  Until you TRY to foster an understanding of another person by a face to face interaction, you are failing at relationship as God intended.  Social media perpetuates many misunderstandings this way.  Words can often be misrepresented and tone is nearly impossible to infer (which is why I only engage in blogging and no other social media sites).

ANYTIME YOU REJECT OR REFUSE INTERACTION WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS DISCLOSED MENTAL ILLNESS YOU ARE PERPETUATING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ANOTHER HUMAN BEING….WHO IN GOD’S EYES IS JUST AS WORTH HIS LOVE AS YOU! 

One disturbing trend I have seen growing lately goes back to my earlier posts, and that is people claiming they accept everyone for who they are and have no judgment toward another.  Oh really?  Then why does there continue to be discrimination, rejection and refusal of services by the same people who are claiming this?  I see it as, THEY HAVE THEIR BLINDERS ON AND DON’T SEE THEIR ACTIONS AS OFFENSIVE OR HYPOCRITICAL.  Yes, we are all human, but until people are accountable for their words matching their actions, our society will continue to perpetuate discrimination and negative stigma.

Bottom line here…get to know someone face to face before you make a decision on who you think they are.  Educate yourself on mental illness and NEVER for any reason reject, refuse, avoid or belittle another human being…mental illness or not.

Love and Light,

Michele

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Love everyone

loveeveryone“Love doesn’t expose. Love doesn’t add fuel to the fire. Love says, ‘They made a mistake, but God can restore them.  They messed up, but God has a new beginning.’”  Joel Osteen ministries

Often times I read another blog and it sparks something inside of me. I decided to sit on this one for a while because I wasn’t sure how to put all I was feeling into words.  The blog was on disabilities. The author working with a special needs child realized her own “disability,” it was a very moving story.

I have come to realize that not all disabilities are visible. There may be a learning disability, or a mental illness that isn’t seen by simply looking at someone.

I am learning that despite people’s “acceptance” of others that there are VERY FEW IF ANY fully accept people.  Sure we can all help the people with visible difficulties or the intellectually disabled, but what about those souls waging a war within their own mind?
Mental illness can be just as debilitating as a physical ailment, but NO ONE CAN SEE IT. You can’t see the depressed person’s pain like you can see a broken leg. You cannot see the many personalities of a person battling Dissociative Identity Disorder like you can see the manifestations of cerebral palsy.
JUST BECAUSE WE CANNOT SEE IT, DOESN’T MAKE IT ANY LESS REAL OR PAINFUL. 
Can one honestly say that they believe in and embrace EVERYONE? Every single person, no matter how “disabled” or sick they may be? I have heard people say it, I have seen people write it…and I think people BELIEVE they do accept and embrace everyone…UNTIL THEY DON’T.  The truest test of character is how we deal with the most difficult of people, and the most difficult situations.
Many professing their belief that everyone has potential and see the good in them, but in reality they are tainted with judgment and hypocrisy with their actions.  Everyone is human, everyone will make mistakes…no arguing that, but what gets my blood boiling is people who claim to believe in everyone, see the potential, see the soul inside but when a person with a disability (seen or unseen) is the one exception to their acceptance.
My last blog post exposed me, as on the verge of pushing someone with an invisible disability away. Years of abuse and torture had taken its toll on this sweet gal,  manifesting in various diagnoses, behaviors and actions that were almost too much. What if I had rejected her—I would be a complete hypocrite.
As individuals we don’t have any legal obligation to accept anyone…but should it come down to that? Good grief, extend unending grace because God gave us unending grace. If you have a problem with someone, whether you can see a disability or not, consider what they may have gone through/are going through to cause them to be the way they are.
As a business person, I also know you cannot allow personal biases or conflicts prevent you from doing business with someone you dislike or are fed up with—-I don’t have the time in this blog to get into that but the short version—the ADA includes mental illnesses in discrimination. So if you are a business owner  (for profit or non-profit) and are aware of one’s mental illness, you must be very very careful about not providing services (much like a restaurant refusing serve to gay couples). First of all, it is just mean. Second of all, you could have a nasty legal matter on your hands.
BE KIND. BE KIND TO EVERYONE. ACCEPT EVERYONE. WHETHER YOU THINK THEY DESERVE IT OR NOT. NOT BECAUSE YOU THINK THEY ARE WORTH IT—–BUT BECAUSE JUST LIKE YOU AND ME—-GOD SAYS THEY ARE. PLAIN AND SIMPLE. 
I usually close with “love and light,” but I think this post deserves more.
Let all that you do be done in love.1 Corinthians 16:14
Love, light, kindness and acceptance to you all,
Michele