I personally didn't put a lot of thought into stigma until this past experience with depression. For the most part, I always felt as if it was a word for those who didn't deal with serious mental illness. Naturally people who can't understand the depths of emotional despair and the wrenching heartache of "disconnectedness" automatically distance themselves from those of us who do. In the past, I constantly replaced the word stigma with ignorance. It's understandable given the amount of gray surrounding mental health. When it comes to the brain and behavior it still remains to be known what exactly is in our power to control.
As I said above, I didn't start to really think about this stigma issue until recently. Major barriers for those of us who have mental illness and this depends on the intensity thereof and where we are on the spectrum, but the barriers most definitely come in the form of social interaction and connection. They also show up in the form of motivation and the zest for life. I have found that this most recent episode of depression revealed a deeper understanding and most definitely an unwelcomed one of that infamous word -stigma. For me I no longer think of ignorance, I think of separation... from family/friends/purpose/passion... from life. This chasm creates room for a self-imposed stigma, thinking "I'm different from everyone else. Why are they able to go on with life and I'm not?" This is unfortunate because stigma is compounded –not only from oneself, but also from society.
We seem to think that we can conquer stigma with education, but education alone does not alleviate the urge for people to shun those who are different from themselves. We shun because we are fearful and we fear because that is a part of the human condition. Ironically enough, the human condition also refers to those of us who have been clinically diagnosed with a mental illness. Combatting stigma is acceptance of the full human condition. Tackling this issue requires understanding and acceptance and for the most part -faith!
Regardless of the many fictional mountains I climb; I have faith that EVERY experience is worth it. I believe in the starfish story and I believe that if I can help even just one starfish/just one spirit believe in the power of self/their own self-worth, then none of this will be for naught. Truth is I create my own barriers and I venture to say that this is my personal stigma that I must overcome. God has given me my own unique path and He has provided me with this need to constantly question/self doubt. In many ways, this is a fight and thanks be to God... I am still a fighter.
Learn to value yourself; fight for your happiness. -Ayn Rand
Hold on to who YOU are! Question everything else, but never forget where you came from and don't be ashamed. YOU are you're own worst enemy -stopping yourself time and again. -Trevor King