The Meaning of Stigma

The following extract is taken from an interview with Sonny Hawkins, creator of Autistic Mental Health Awareness (AMHA):

“Mental health stigma is an illness all by itself. It should be included as a side effect of mental illness along with the weight gain, bloating and rashes from the medication.

In 2018, you would think mental health stigma and discrimination would be a thing of the past. Society seems to have stereotyped views of mental illness and how it affects sufferers, without ever knowing themselves what it is like to struggle. I think the stigma from the outside world is harder than actually having the condition – life is hard enough without receiving rude, stigmatising, bullying remarks not just from the public, but from professionals like doctors, family, friends and co-workers.

I know personally it can delay seeking help and treatment. The social isolation can be the hardest aspect as well as accessing benefits, housing, work, healthcare. During my breakdown as an adult, all it took was repetitive daily beatings of discrimination and bullying from employers who not only made my Autism harder to manage but caused my mental health to worsen. Once the tiredness set in, and the paranoia from being watched, it was just too much.

What makes life even harder is accessing treatment. I thought it was hard enough accessing support for mental health, but once you add Autism into the mix, no one wants to touch you unless you go private. It’s all about the postcode lottery and where you live. There is no consistency in treatment, and even when you access treatment after 12 months’ waiting, most of the time those treating you have no idea about Autism, or basically have a dictionary definition about your mental health condition.

It concerns me what is being taught to doctors and nurses who deal with mental health and Autism. I don’t agree with a lot of what is being done within the NHS and how those with mental health problems are being treated. A lot of the treatment options just don’t work when you have co-morbid conditions, combined with medication which has made my life miserable.”

Read more of Sonny’s interview: Top 10 Mental Health Stigmas

What does stigma mean to you? How has it affected you? 

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