Why it is so hard to break down stigma……

WARNING:  this post contains material that some may find upsetting and confronting, if you feel depressed and unsafe, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14

The world woke this morning to the tragic news that L’Wren Scott had passed away with reports it was the result of suicide.  

While going through my Facebook newsfeed I came across a news outlet reporting the breaking news I happened to notice a few of the most recent comments made by readers and out of interest istarted to read all the comments made in response to the death of L’Wren.  While most were messages of condolence which you would expect in these circumstances there were other comments that not just shocked me but left my blood boiling with anger.

Organisations dedicated to mental illness have been working tireless to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness.  These efforts have improved somewhat the awareness of mental illness and in some environments has seen the implementation of support mechanisms and better services.  However, stigma still remains and for some of us who suffer mental illness stigma has become a significant issue for them.  The aim is that those with mental illness can live in a society free of stigma so that they can be free of judgement, discrimination and inequality in their homes, workplaces and other areas of their lives.

Despite the efforts to create change towards those with a mental illness there will unfortunately be people and parts of society that will continue to contribute to stigma and treat those with mental illness in an inappropriate and unfair manner.  There will sadly be people that despite the best efforts of organisations working to support those witha mental illness and those of us who have a voice against stigma that will never change nor accept and treat fairly those who live with mental illness.

Today in response to the breaking news that L’Wren died as a result of suicide these people came out of the woodwork and made me rethink society and how little some in our society know, or want to understand about mental illness, the extent of stigma, judgement and discrimination in our society and it also highlighted that there are some amongst us who will always be cruel, heartless, insensitive and ignorant to the plight of those living with mental illness.

I won’t detail what was written by these individuals in response to this tragic news because a) they are too insensitive, b) go against my aim to be a voice against stigma, c) by reprinting their comments they are achieving what they aimed to achieve by their cruel comments, and d) I don’t want to upset my readers the way these people upset me.  What I will write is the comment I wrote on these news site in response to these comments….

…”I can’t believe the comments and judgements being made about this news it is a disgrace.  Any wonder that there is so much stigma and discrimination associated to mental illness.  Any wonder so many with a mental illness suffer in silence and can’t or don’t receive help.  Any wonder so many are unable to talk about their mental illness.  For those that choose to make these outlandish, insensitive and uneducated comments and who believe they have the right to make judgement of someone else you should be ashamed of yourselves and instead of criticising and making a joke of such tragic circumstances how about using your time to become more aware of mental illness….”

The second thing about this whole tragic event is the need for people to publically make judgement about how and why someone died from suicide.  When someone dies from a heart attack do we say ‘well they deserved to die because they were fat’? NO, we don’t!  When someone dies from cancer do we say ‘well they smoked so…..’? NO, we don’t!  When someone dies of natural causes or no cause of death can be found do we come out and make speculation like ‘well it must be a drug overdose’? NO we don’t!  We don’t because we have respect, compassion and we want to provide condolence and support to the deceased family and friends, that is how it is, it’s part of our culture.  

Well apparently the very same respect, compassion and condolences don’t apply when sadly someone dies from suicide! People for reasons I can’t comprehend choose to make judgements of how and why, they criticise and make judgement about that person, their circumstances and their life that they neither know anything about this person and their life and nor do they see that their behaviour and actions are not just insensitive and cruel to that persons loved ones but they are contributing to a society that down plays mental illness, builds upon the attitudes that contribute to stigma and belittle the seriousness of suicide and it’s impact on society!

Rest In Peace L’Wren Scott…..

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One thought on “Why it is so hard to break down stigma……

  1. I keep hoping that society will evolve, and become more compassionate. I do have to disagree with the cancer comment. I’m a lung cancer survivor, and when I disclose that information, you would think I told someone I had the plague, and one of the first questions I’m asked, is if I smoked.

    Our world is full of little judges. They judge by the color of our skin, the religions we follow, the people we choose to love, our illnesses. I look forward to the day when those judges find that it isn’t their place to judge. We need to keep informing the ignorant—maybe they will “get it” some day.

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