Day 14: Have you ever experienced stigma?
I have experienced stigma in a lot of different ways. When I started working at the hospital, on the orientation day nursing was spoken of with great pride and enthusiasm until the discussion turned to mental health. Then the Occupational Health team that were running the day spoke of not working in this discipline because it was too dangerous and various other uninformed ideas. It was offensive and even worse it was inaccurate.
When the fact that I had mental illnesses became known the hospital offered me a plan that would give me additional support if I became unwell as a result of my mental health. I really thought about it. I counter offered a plan for my physical condition of fibromyalgia as well as the mental illnesses that they were making assumptions about. They declined. I felt my privacy had been invaded because they were operating on assumptions and gossip.
When I was considering leaving work I had a psychiatric evaluation performed for my work. A colleague had died and I had taken stress leave (its a long sad and in places sordid story for another time). I had been working with the Occupational Health team during this. After that report came out, all of a sudden the woman I had been working with needed a second person with her and she appeared terrified. I didn’t change in that time but her perception and treatment of me as the result of mental health information did.
Stigma has occurred at many times be it the result of my disclosure or based in gossip and assumption. It still makes me so mad and it is so unnecessary in this day and age. Knowing it exists makes it hard for me to see a productive future for me, now that I do not repress or deny my mental health state and diagnoses.