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Ignorance and fear increase stigma and self-stigma

Illustration © Mireia Azorin

How much have we learned from mental disorders for thirty years so far? Very, very much, I would say. Inexplicably and proportionally there are people who have become more ignorant in the subject, by their inability to catch up on scientific advances. It is also true that the more we discover, the more questions we are asked, it is another way of being distracted.

First, our ignorance and ignorance about the disorder that have diagnosed us plunges us into a deep uncertainty, from which we hardly ever leave very well.

Then there is the ignorance of people, especially the one who has never been diagnosed of mental dysfunction, to which you do not explain that you suffer a depression, and that you feel this way or that, because the first thing you will think, if you are working, will be: “Wow, another one wants the low and does not know how to do it.” Maybe I do not say it aloud, but I play 1€ to which most have this kind of lucubrations.

For our own ignorance, as for that of the general population, there is a remedy. In the face of our own ignorance, it is easy to shed some light on our obscurantism by reading, studying, gathering information; definetely, catching up on our disarray. That will depend on the concerns of each individual, but I would advise that you not to stay in the preliminaries, but to follow gradually and with a certain temporal perspective, scrutinizing in our pathology.

Another thing is the ineptitude of the people, which can be improved, giving information, sensitizing the younger population, etc. Things that really are already being done.

Of the two unconsciousnesses, the most dangerous for us is the first, the own, because I can at any given moment pass from the person who thinks I do not want to go to work, and subtract the importance with a matter: “Damn you”. But it does make me nervous when talking to a user, I ask about his pathology or diagnosis, and he responds with a: “Mine is a nervous thing …”, leaving me unarmed to keep asking or interested in his situation.

This preamble is nothing more than an appetizer, to enter into what I consider a highly flammable fuel for stigma and self-stigma in mental health. This is nothing more than fear. Also of the two sides of the population, the one that has and the one that does not have or has not been diagnosed. I will speak first of the fear of the “normal” population (if there is anyone who can be considered as such), which is the least of the harms, because they are prejudices and fallacies that have been created around the users of the services mental health.

I think the fear of “normal” people is a fear that is not real, because it is based on confabulations, myths or urban legends. The panic that some people feel is proportionally equivalent to their ignorance in the subject. And that can be corrected in the same way as ignorance, giving information and sensitizing people.

Another thing is the fear that we have, to ourselves due to our “mental disorder”. And this gentlemen is the most dangerous and the one that has led me to make this dissertation. As you will know there are people, whether they are diagnosed of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc., in which fear is the common factor; that is, during a psychotic attack have manifested different types of fear. Fear of hurting someone; Feeling panic about their own ideas or thoughts (someone wants to shoot me); fear exorbitant to different elements, as can be the lightnings in a storm; or fear of losing a loved one, to show a few examples. This supernatural fear, sometimes without foundation, that comes from within, is devastating and I think it is a cause, rather than stigma, self-stigma.

It is a fear that makes us believe that we are different, that people see us from another perspective. How can I make you understand a person who has never had delusions, that I have been scared to death, locked up in the house, because there were some murderers who were going for me? Of course, I know that it is not real when delirium disappears, but while I live it, I have two types of fear, the one that accent me at that moment and the one that comes later, thinking about what can happen if I get another delirium.

And that fear is there present, both when you are in the bud and when you are without him, because you think about what can become, even that fear can become paranoia.

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” (Nelson Mandela).

Let us not stay in a comfort zone, where we are comfortable, without risk, face and conquer, not the delirious fears before which we can do little, but the fears that cause us these “fears”, self-stigmatizing ourselves thinking that we will not leave this, that we will no longer be like before, that we no longer find meaning to life, that we are worth nothing, those irrational fears that we make ours and that do not bring us or bring anything good.

Actor Robin Williams said: “The things we fear the most have already happened to us”.

We have to be prudent in life, to go slowly in our journey for it, but fears should not be an impediment to travel that way. I think fears straighten our spine and make us stronger, when we have managed to overcome them. I only know one way to overcome fear and it is to face him.

Josep Franch


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