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Stigma

Posted Sep 01 2012 1:37pm

I confess. I wear pink shirts. My daughter doesn’t think men should wear pink. Apparently, wearing pink is unmanly and is stigmatized.

According to Wikipedia, stigma is defined as:

  1. A badge of shame, a physical mark of infamy or disgrace
  2. Social stigma, a severe social disapproval of personal characteristics or beliefs that are against cultural norms

But I don’t think there is anything wrong with wearing pink clothes. As a matter of fact, I think it takes a true man to stand up to social norms and hazard the criticism of others.

Dealing with a clothing stigma is one thing. Dealing with a stigma associated with disease is quite something else. Unfortunately, depression and anxiety are two illnesses that still carry significant stigmas. Depressed patients often avoid coming to the doc’s office or discussing their problems with anyone due to old prejudices.

Depression is not a character flaw. Most of the time, it is not something you can just “buck up” and fix on your own. Depression is not a choice. Depression is not something to be ashamed of. Like wearing a pink shirt, it takes a true man to face depression and ask for help!

Sometimes, I feel like we are still living in the dark ages. It really is time to step away from old prejudices and open our minds to the reality of depression and its causes and effects. Once a hopeless diagnosis, depression is now readily treatable with counseling and medications.

Talking about prejudices, you should see the looks I get when I refer my patients to those two-headed monsters who “shrink” people. Psychologists are teachers who help people learn about themselves and how to deal with their individual quirks and illnesses.

Patient - “Doc, I’m not going to talk to a stranger about how I feel.”

Doc – “I’m a stranger and you are talking to me.”

Patient – “But you’re a doctor.”

Doc – “Yep, so is the psychologist. She’s a doc who specializes in what’s bothering you emotionally.”

Often, my patient is really worried that a “psychologist” will probe his mind, opening doors he wants kept shut. A good psychologist won’t open the doors of a patient’s mind without permission. Psychologists don’t use crowbars!

Shed the stigma and face up to whatever is bothering you. If you are feeling depressed, talk to your doc, family, and friends. Get help and get well. The life you save may be your own and you may find you like and understand yourself better than you ever thought you could.

www.livewellthy.org

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