All content contained within should be restricted to those over-age. Occasionally, suicide and self-harm are mentioned and readers should take care to ensure they are in a safe place - emotionally and physically - before reading. Comments are welcome.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Stigma - how much coming out is too much?

In an article today, on stigma in relation to mental illness, Glenn Mitchell writes that:

"I do think provision of mental health services is a big problem in regional Australia but in small communities I think some people just feel that there's a bit of a stigma that if I let my best friend or my girl friend know about it that everyone is going to find out about it, but I still have the thought process that so what if everyone finds out," he said.
So what if everyone finds out?

Here's what...

* Teenagers are bullied to the point that they attempt suicide.
* People of all ages find that family and friends stop talking to them, bitch about them, and sometimes openly ridicule them.
* People lose their jobs.
* People have their property vandalised.
* People in small communities find that complete strangers know who they are.  They know this, because the complete strangers look scared when they meet in the street.  This particular example is that of a fifteen year old boy whose own mother refused to talk to him.
* Physical abuse.
* Sexual abuse.
* Emotional abuse.

I've talked to a lot of people that have a mental illness, and I've talked to them in places that most don't want to admit exist - this shit happens to people when people find out.

That's what Glenn.  That's what.

Look - I get that we need to break down stigma.  That has to be one of our top priorities.  However, not everyone has the open family and the understanding friends - and encouraging those that don't to speak out to their family and friends is irresponsible.  Because some kid is going to read that story and believe you because they desperately want to believe it's true, even if in their heart they know it's not.  They are going to want to believe it's true, and they are going to speak up, and they are going to suffer the consequences, and we are going to lose them!

So how about this, for now...  How about, for now, we encourage people to speak to someone they trust.  Let's not pretend that everyone is going to be understanding.  My family isn't.  They don't want to speak to me.  And quite frankly, I don't care.  For me, this article is correct - so what if I lose a family that was never there in the first place?  But I'm not a fifteen year old kid about to get the crap beaten out of him to "toughen him up".  So can we please assume that fifteen year old kids with deadbeat family are going to read this, and tell them to speak to someone they trust.  Maybe it's a family member.  Maybe it's a teacher.  Maybe it's their doctor.  Maybe it's a friend.  And then they can make a judgement call on whether or not to tell people in general.

I would love to live in some Utopia where we can all just be fucking honest about who we are.  We don't.  We live in a world that will kick us when we're down, and being honest and finding out your family and friends are the ones who will do the kicking - that's a fucking shitty way to learn that particular life lesson.

There are people who can speak out without severe repercussions - and they should.  That is why I do.  I can now.  Let's not forget our brothers and sisters who can't speak out.  Let's not tell them that it's safe to do so until it fucking well IS safe to do so.

So in closing - my advice on "coming out"...

Do what you think is best for you.  Look after yourself first.  If you can, find someone you trust.  If you can, get some help.  Talking about it IS important and I'm not trying to say it's not.  I'm just saying - only speak up if it's safe to do so.

Glenn was right - the more people that help, the better chance you have of recovery.  That is dead set true.  We just need to lose the assumption that the people around us are the ones that will provide that.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thank you for your comment Troy, but my blog is not a place for advertising your business. If you would like to comment again without the spam, you are welcome to do so, particularly in regards to stigma in relation to Bankruptcy, as I do feel that has some relevance to this particular blog :)