On Responding to Stigma and Ignorance

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I came across a post from a writer who was responding to an article entitled Why French Parents Are Superior. I was immediately intrigued. The writer, to me, wrote an eloquent piece arguing that ALL Moms are trying their best to raise their children. No culture or ethnicity makes us superior.

I was curious to see what other readers of her post were saying so I scanned down the page, only to find one comment full of stigma that slapped me square across my cheek:

“I totally agree that (in the absence of mental illness or abuse) parents do what they feel is best for their children, even if it goes against ‘the norm’.”

What in the world did she mean by absence of mental illness? Was she implying that people with mental illnesses aren’t capable of knowing what is best for their children? Was she implying that people with mental illnesses aren’t capable of being good parents? I had so many questions.

I sat there staring at my computer screen with my fingers ready to unleash a fury that was suffocating my chest, and I thought for a long while.

Moms with postpartum depression are no different. Our illness does not, DOES NOT define our parenting.   We are no different just like the French moms aren’t any different than Catholic moms and that they aren’t any different than a mom with cancer. The stigma is unfair.

Have you ever heard “Oh that mom has a heart defect. I wonder how good of a parent she is?”  You probably haven’t. Actually I can put 20 bucks on it that you haven’t heard that said before. So why are we with a mental illness continuously singled out? What makes us any different? We are moms, spouses, daughters, friends, aunts, etc. that walk around this earth just like anyone else. Only we have a mental illness. Big deal.

It’s important that our society knows that we not our illness nor should we be seen as the stigma that surround them.

Having suffered through postpartum depression I feel that it is my responsibility to say something when a comment is made that further segregates people with mental illness from society. It isn’t fair that people make ignorant assumptions and when they do, I try to do my part in helping to educate and destigmatize mental illness.

So I commented. And she apologized.

When you hear someone make an ignorant comment about mental illness do you say something?

Do you take negative comments as an opportunity to educate people about postpartum mood disorders?

If you have said something, what was the response?

~ Kimberly

 

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About Kimberly Morand

Kim blogs at All Work & No Play Make Mommy Go Something Something. She is a survivor of postpartum depression, and lives in Canada. Follow her on Twitter at @momgosomething.

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  1. I'm so thankful for strong advocates like you, Thank you for speaking up.

  2. The problem with her statement is that she made a generalization, when it may be true in some cases, some of the time, but is not necessarily true all of the time across the board. Yes, still, it’s ignorance. And that’s so frustrating!

    A few days ago I ran into a lady from our church at Walmart and we stopped and chatted for a minute. Her daughter had a baby about 8 months ago, and I asked how she was doing (nothing specific, just in general) and her response to me was “she’s doing great!—she’s doing what she has always wanted to do—being a wife and a mother!” It was a dagger in my chest when she said that, because, guess what, that is what I have always wanted to do also, but….ok…I don’t think I have to explain myself here!! I didn’t say anything to her, I just tried to give my best smile and change the subject. :(

    People’s ignorance about the subject is one of the many reasons why I kept my PPD a secret.

    • It took me a long time…months before I started to tell people for that reason. That and my Dad's side of the family likes to pick on my Mom's side for their mental illnesses.

      I was terrified of what people would think of me.

      But that's why we have to speak up when people make jabs at mental illness. It's just like any other illness. We don't have cooties. And that's another reason why people suffer in silence.

      I'm really sorry that she said that to you.

  3. Reminds me of my current dilemma. I'm strongly considering asking to do a presentation on mental illness as a Diversity learning point at work – with the intention to try to remove the stigma.

    As part of that, I want to reveal my struggles, something NO ONE here knows about.

    But a really big part of me is worried that doing so would effectively kill my career and my ability to build effective working relationships with others, because of the stigma attached.

    But we have to try to remove that stigma. People are suffering because they're afraid to say anything, afraid of how they will be perceived.

    Perhaps my friend would not have committed suicide last year, if he felt he could talk to someone about his depression (something no one but his wife knew about prior to his death).

    I think I just answered my own dilemma.

    • @ kyfirewife,"People are suffering because they’re afraid to say anything, afraid of how they will be perceived." yes, that was me, and so many others too I'm sure.

    • Gosh I am so sorry about your friend.

      I kept my illness from my employer for a long time because I was a nurse.

      It's sad that we have to take into account what "coming out" will do to our idenities and careers and relationships and so on. But you are right we have to talk about it to remove that stigma. So people don't suffer in silence.

  4. As a former mental health professional I depise the propogation of stigma among those seeking mental health support — especially when it comes to men and any military personnel. Sometimes it feels like society just doesn't want others to be heathly. However, in my experience – people just don't know how to deal with their own pain or someone else's. It troubles me.

    • Some people don't know how but they're afraid to reach out for that help they desperately need. I know for me, asking for help was hindered because I was terrified of how I would be veiwed.

      My father has a mental illness that is undiagnosed. I'm certain of it. He is also from the military…perhaps he thinks he will be veiwed as weak…not sure…but I can see how it's harder for men to seek help

  5. FWIW, I don't take the statement the way you did. I live with depression, but I have family members who live with the kinds of mental illnesses that profoundly affect everyone they encounter, especially their children. Because they have not received treatment and can't do any better, they have abused, neglected and essentially tortured their children. I don't take it personally because I understand that some mental illnesses do lead to that kind of what I would call bad parenting. I know that broad statement doesn't necessarily apply to someone like me. I am being treated and I work hard to manage my mental illness. Also, I have the type of mental illness that hurts me more than anyone else. Unfortunately not all of them are like that.

  6. It is true that we don't really know what it is like to have an illness unless we experience it. I will never forget a patient that I had in the ER. He had sickle cell disease and was in a pain crisis. I know that it's horrible but I had asked him what it felt like. He chuckled and said that there was no way that I'd understand…but he described it as shards of glass floating though his veins.