Stigma Fighters: Gabe Howard – STIGMA FIGHTERS
According to the internet, my friends, and mental health groups all over the world, I am a stigma fighter. I’m an elite, mentally ill stigma fighter looking to change the perception of mental illness in a single bound. I, of course, am not an elite anything, but I am a person with knowledge, lived experience, …
I stumbled onto this site and I like what I found there. Go check it out!
Fighting stigma is the most difficult and important thing that health care providers tackle. It seems an impossible task at times. I look around myself and I see all the shit out there that sends out incorrect and often damning information. I read books and find myself thinking “really?” when I come upon an unrealistic and often stereotyped mentally ill character. I watch my scary movies and sigh when the villain is yet again diagnosed with some mental illness or everything comes back to that insane asylum…
But I remind myself that my mission isn’t really to get other people to understand mental illness. I can’t claim that I do. Psychology is a young science and there is more that we don’t know then we do. The brain is a vast mystery. If the experts still don’t have any solid answers, how can we expect lay people to understand? We can’t. And lets remember that those labels aren’t really what’s important here.
My mission is to encourage people to accept other people who are not like themselves. My mission is to reduce the idea that different must be bad. My mission is to encourage people to care about each other. If we can become more open minded, the stigma that mental illness faces will no longer be an issue. Because the truth of the matter is that every human has their struggles whether they have mental illness or not.
I struggle with having excessive energy, poor focus, impulsive and excessive talking, need for sameness and so many other things. The labels that comes with those struggles don’t matter. I just want you to be kind to me and to accept that I am different with struggles that are different then yours. It’s alright if you don’t like me. Not everyone will. Just as I will not like everyone that I meet. But remember that disliking someone does not give us permission to be hateful or disrespectful.
It would be a beautiful world if everyone of us could be friends with everyone. But that isn’t real. What is real is that each of us will have a handful of friends, many acquaintances and thousands whom we contact only in a passing moment. But those passing moments of contact can change another person’s life for the better or for the worse. Most of the time, we take no notice of these encounters. But we can all recall a time that a stranger left a mark on us.
I can think of many times that I encountered someone just once. I recall those times because they left a mark, made an impression, changed me in some small way. There was the guy that helped me out by pumping my gas from the ancient gas pump. His gesture reminded me that there is kindness in others. It was also humbling (something my ego needs on occasion). There was the scary driver on our DC trip that lead to a cascade of anxiety and created a terrible day. I never even saw their face, but their actions greatly effected me. Those are just a couple examples, there are so many more. We all have them.
My mission is to leave as positive mark in this world as possible and to encourage others to do the same. I want to increase mindfulness about the way that we effect others. I want to foster acceptance. If everyone in this world aimed to be positive in all their dealings, maintained mindfulness of others and struggled to accept others… well, this world would be a much better place and things like stigma would just take care of themselves.
You don’t need to understand. It’s alright if you cannot relate to the struggle. There is no harm in not being able to grasp the meaning of mental illness. Just accept the person as they are. It doesn’t really matter why they are that way. They just are. Accept that and treat them with respect. That’s all that’s needed.