Stop Stigma Now!: It May Save a Life

create hope celebrate potential disability flower

Last night I had the pleasure of being the keynote speaker for the Kennedy Center Inc Annual meeting. The theme was inspiring:

Create Hope, Celebrate Potential.

The Kennedy Center staff does so much to do just that, from educational programs to support services

ben behind his voices
Decorated books! for the centerpieces

like job coaching, to residential programs and more, helping families when hopes and dreams have to be adjusted due to a disability diagnosis – in utero, at birth, because of an accident, or (as in our case) as a child develops.

We cry our tears; then, if we’re lucky and well-guided, we wipe our eyes, pick up the pieces, educate ourselves, find a new community, get some support and new knowledge, and learn to understand our “new normal.”¬† Then we adjust. And accept. And, eventually, appreciate the joys in this “new normal.”

None of this happens overnight. It takes time (and the “SEARCH” elements I talk about – support, education, acceptance, resilience, communication, and hope/humor) to get to that new place.

And it takes time and patience.

But none of this – none of it – can happen without first addressing the problem of stigma. Especially where mental illness is concerned – because we can’t always bring ourselves to see it, visually or emotionally.

Kenton Robinson of the Eastern Regional Mental Health Board wrote a beautiful, heartfelt piece about his experience with family stigma that almost had tragic results for one of his former 7th grade students:

he says:

Depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are illnesses, just as diabetes or heart disease are illnesses, but they are still viewed by many as the victims’ fault. That stigma makes people ashamed and afraid, and it prevents many from getting the treatment they¬†need.

 

I responded:

Shame was part of our initial reaction until we learned better, through NAMI (I became a family-to-family educator and trainer) and through hearing stories of others. I wrote our book hoping it might save a family as ours was saved – and, possibly, save a life.

Thank you for a wonderful article!

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