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An original essay

by Edward Fagan

The Stigma of Mental Illness

Why do we stigmatize mental illness and then in an attempt to avoid stigmatizing our relatives and friends who are suffering from mental illness, deny that they are suffering from such illness?

The answer to this question may be obvious, but would it not be better to stop stigmatizing mental illness? Would we not then be able to admit that our relatives and friends are suffering from mental illness without having to worry about the stigma of mental illness?

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We do not stigmatize diabetes, cancer, heart disease or high blood pressure. We thus do not see any need to deny that our relatives and friends suffer from these diseases. Mental illness is another disease like any other; it does not have to be stigmatized.

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Should we stop stigmatizing mental illness, this would allow us to seek professional help for our mentally ill relatives and friends at the earliest opportunity. (There would be no stigma to prevent us from admitting the presence of the disease in the early stage.) This early help could be sought without our experiencing a sense of shame due to the absence of any associated stigma. This early help should also allow the mentally ill the earliest and best chance of either recovering from their illness, or otherwise learning to live with the reality of the permanence of that illness.

By Edward Fagan

 

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