Are YOU Ready To Get Riled Up? Then Let’s Stop Stigma Now!

Are YOU Ready To Get Riled Up? Then Let's Stop Stigma Now!So, I know Memorial Day was a couple of weeks ago, but did you happen to catch the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS?

Amazing concert this year, hosted by actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise.

Well, one part of it really got me choked up and riled up, if I can admit.

It was when Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise poignantly recounted the story of brothers, Joe and Earl Granville, both of whom served in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Thankfully, Joe and Earl both made it home safely, but Joe made it home with something else…Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

As I watched actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise talk about Joe and Earl’s deployments and the horribly distressing things they saw in war, I felt incredibly sad.

But when Gary Sinise talked about how Joe committed suicide, having been ashamed to get help for his PTSD because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, I felt not only sad, but, quite frankly, mad.

Are YOU ready to get riled up?

I heard this and I thought to myself, “Enough. When are we going to grow up as a country and finally stop shaming those with mental illness?”

Are YOU Ready To Get Riled Up? Then Let's Stop Stigma Now!And it’s not just with mental illness that stigma exists…

There’s stigma around obesity. (Author and blogger Jai Stone talks about this in her powerful-beyond-words post, Why Is She So Fat? A Voice From Inside The Obesity Epidemic.)

Or, to some degree, there’s still stigma around being single…

And, of course, stigma toward mental illness exists outside of the military.

Now, you may be reading this and thinking to yourself, “But I don’t feel any stigma toward anyone…”. I hope you don’t. But I believe it’s possible that, subconsciously, many of us do – or, if we don’t, we sit back, as silent bystanders, and let stigma happen.

How to stop stigma now…

The bottom line, to me, is that stigmas exist because we allow them to. But we don’t have to. YOU don’t have to.

Here’s how….

:: 1 Fight stigma with education.

We often judge or stigmatize what we don’t understand or what we don’t feel comfortable with. This is where we must challenge ourselves to rise above human nature and take the time – despite how busy we are – to educate ourselves about that which we don’t know. More knowledge and understanding equals less fear and less judgement. As Maya Angelou so wisely says, “When you know better, you do better.”

Are YOU Ready To Get Riled Up? Then Let's Stop Stigma Now!:: 2 Fight stigma with empathy.

Did you enjoy last week’s ‘empathy refresher’? Great, because fighting stigma requires a lot of empathy (which, hopefully, comes after doing bullet #1). When we take a moment and truly imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes, something critical in fighting stigma happens – we feel compassion and sympathy for someone – not judgment. And they, in turn, don’t feel shame. And that’s the ultimate result of stigma – shame, which leads to greater pain than the very thing they’re battling.

Tweet this –> Where there is an absence of empathy, there is an abundance of stigma. Choose empathy. Stop stigma now.

:: 3 Don’t be a bystander.

Did you know that the number of bullying incidents in schools goes down dramatically when an observer steps in to help? Well, it’s the same thing with stigma. The next time you see or hear someone making fun of or making negative comments about someone who’s different, make a comment of your own – have the courage to kindly call them out on it. Often, that’s all it takes to inspire someone to go in a different direction.

:: ::

So, are you riled up yet? Let’s stop stigma now – because no one should be made to feel ashamed of who they are.


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To ending stigma,



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  1. Terri Vegter says:

    Rachel: Your message regarding fighting stigma is quite timely. However, my daughter is fighting on the other side of the battlefield. She is fighting being stigmatized by her condition.
    I write this comment, as I sit next to my daughter’s ICU bed. She has been hospitalized for 8 days, so far. She is resting , at the moment ( it is just before 7:00am ). She has spent the last two hours experiencing seizures, back to back. Her body is exhausted. She has had up to 22 episodes in a 24 hour period. The stigma she faces is that her condition is atypical. She has never been a textbook, case, therefore she has experienced, many times, since childhood, misdiagnosis, labeling, and a lack of empathy by ignorant and arrogant doctors and nurses. When they can not identify a specific pathology to a condition my daughter is experiencing, they tend to stigmatize her with a “pseudo-this” or “psycho-that”. This leads to, in some cases, a lack of empathy by some of the medical community. After they identify a neat, Physician’s Desk Reference, diagnosis, they come back to her with their tails between their legs, apologizing for telling her that her symptoms were “all in her head”. She and her family and friends experience frustration beyond words. Her saving grace, literally, is her solid faith and knowledge in her God. She knows that, after all, He is the Great Physician.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about everything you and your daughter are going through, Terri! Fighting her condition is hard enough without also fighting stigma against it. So often, I think people have a need to categorize something with this label or that label, and when they can’t, they deem it outside of the ordinary and then judge it. I hope that your daughter finds the right doctors for her – I know there are good ones out there. But, unfortunately, there are not so good ones also – which, sadly, give the good ones a bad name too.

      Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. Your taking the time to do so means so very much to me, and I always look forward to your thoughts and wisdom.

      ~ Rachel