Letter of the Day

Stigma is cruel

THE tragic reality about any manifestation of mental unwellness, however one labels it, is that social attitudes are so often contingent upon what that unwellness actually is (“A story shared makes someone feel less alone”, Rachel Sanderson, Opinion, 9/9).

Certainly, anxiety, depression and eating disorders are now less stigmatised than years previously, but people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar are sadly still subject to not just a cruel and malicious stigma, but also rejection, disrespect, even contempt.

Silence about their problem is usually recommended.

Moreover, ignorant and one-dimensional perspectives about those so labelled are based on superficial assumptions and naïve judgements. Clearly, sharing one’s experience of mental ill-health can engender positive and less isolating outcomes, but I contend the stigma attached to these people can be frightening to most others, with that fear inhibiting them from wanting to know at all. Pity abounds, not empathy.

Furthermore, lockdowns have provided a convenient, more socially acceptable raison d’etre for depressive distress, while other more complex conditions remain too confronting and challenging to consider.

Public attitudes, however defined, need reshaping.