What, How, Why social stigma ?… and so why MISTAG ?

What, How, Why social stigma ?… and so why MISTAG ?

Stigma is the process by which we
construct a negative evaluation or a social disapproval or shame around a
group of people and the members that belong to this group Our Sigmas have different origins some
part of it we can look at as evolutionary so when those systems of
disease and threats to health then sometimes we have these negative
evaluations that pop up towards the people that are experiencing the
disease threat but a large part of stigma is also constructed by systems of
power and disparity so when majority groups are those who are holding power
in society wish to maintain power then often the way to do that is to
marginalize or stigmatize groups that are not belonging to the majority so
that extends to all kinds of groups So the different effects of stigma are
multifaceted what we find is that stigma has individual level effects so
including effects on mental health such as depression, anxiety, self-consciousness,
internalized negative dialogues towards oneself based on the dialogue that exists
all around us. There’s also levels of social
disengagement that we find because people have an experience of being
excluded in society when people are stigmatized or from stigmatized groups
then what happens is that institutions often don’t allow them into their walls
so people end up being excluded from these different structures and systems
and they’re unable to participate in let’s say work and school and social
events so that’s another effect that we see that people are unable to engage.
Then you have the internalization of that so on one hand you can have people
saying you don’t belong here and after a certain point the people who are being
stigmatized may themselves say “well I don’t belong here” or “I don’t feel like I
can actually fit in here I know that I’m not accepted and so I can’t walk in and
navigate the space safely” and so I disengaged or I feel a sense of
helplessness in the face of this systemic disadvantage Stigmas are pernicious and pervasive
they’re some of the toughest things to change but it is definitely possible to
change them At an individual level what it takes is
that willingness and openness but also that willingness to go into the
discomfort of recognizing our own stigmas our own stereotypes the
stereotypes that are against us and the stereotypes we have against others and
unpacking them dismantling them is another term that’s used and what that
means is that we can recognize yes I’ve been socialized into this bias into this
negative shaming script around these people or those people and instead we
can say okay well I can recognize that I’ve been socialized into this that I
have this script running that this is a kind of flash reaction that I have when
I see a member from that group and then from there what we can say is “oh but I
know that that’s not true and I know where this comes from” and then from
there the next step is okay and so I don’t need to be afraid I don’t need to
have this disgust response that often comes up with stigmatized groups I don’t
need to have this sense of danger or anger or blame towards this group
because I know where this comes from and once we know that then there’s an
immense sense of relief and freedom and an ability to extend yourself and extend
your hand to meet people to be in the company of others not just in a way that
is tolerant but in a way that is loving and accepting and happy to be together The best way to offer support is first
of all not to pretend that it doesn’t exist not to pretend that oh I don’t see
your experience you’re just like everybody else what we need is to be
seen fundamentally all people all individuals need to be seen as they are
and accepted as they are and we need to do the same for others it’s a healing
process to do that just as that first step that we recognize that this is
where that person is and that’s not necessarily a bad thing that we also can
recognize that their experience walking through the world will be different that
we’re available to them to talk to about their experience of being stigmatized
that we listen and acknowledge their experience of stigmatization and also
that when we’re in you know different company as well and we hear other people
stigmatizing the group that let’s say our child or our friend or a lover might
be a part of that we’re also prepared to step up and step in and say hey you know
what that’s not actually right and that’s actually a harmful problematic
and inaccurate look at the world and perspective against this group and that
way that not just that you’re there for the person but when harm is coming
towards them you’re just silent but that when harm is
coming towards them you show them I am here for you I am not going to let this
dialogue and this discourse keep continuing and coming and harming you
I’m going to interrupt the dialogue I’m going to interrupt the discourse and I’m
going to counter the discourse a lot of that is is found in the discussions
around allyship and what it means to be an ally to people who are marginalized but
it’s a powerful thing because it’s not just that you’re a nice and good and
giving person to this person but that you are a nice and good and giving
person who is also informed and who’s also prepared to say you know what I’m
gonna stand up for you I’m gonna be there for you we’re gonna stand together
and you’re not alone that’s powerful One of the powerful things about a
project like this that brings the voices of the invisible of the disenfranchised
of the stigmatized with mental health issues to the foreground is one creating
that invisibility in representation to humanizing showing that these are just
happy or unhappy regular normal people who have these issues there’s nothing
abnormal about abnormality in fact that we have greater representation more
positive representation more complex more rich more nuanced more complete
representations of these different people and their experiences it
humanizes our gaze towards them instead of dehumanizes our gaze which is often
the case with stigma

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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