The Weekly Thought

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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?


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.


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



6 thoughts on “The Weekly Thought

  1. I have a relative who has schizophrenia for almost thirty years, but she and her father deny it, they prefer to call it depression. My ex husband told me before we were married that he had ‘depression’, it was his doctor who told me the truth it was schizophrenia paranoia. It is sad that people feel so ashamed to lie to their nearest and dearest.

    • It is sad indeed, as you say, that people would risk harming their relationship with their loved ones rather than give them the opportunity to show understanding and offer help.

  2. Fear rules too many relationships and it’s very difficult for people to see the bigger picture. Kudos for spreading the word and for shedding light into dark corners!


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