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It wasn’t that bad. That happened forever ago. You still aren’t over that? You should be over that by now. You shouldn’t let things affect you that way. You can’t just not live your life.

People are full of expert opinions. Many critical thinkers and philosophers have dreaded what has become in the technological digital age. The more that people believe they are the expert, the less authority experts truly have. We are rapidly approaching an age where the need for an expert will be replaced by the experts of the internet and our personal lives. People in our lives, whether they be our parents, our partners, or strangers we meet, offer their expert opinions to us without warrant. After making a vulnerable decision to open up about our experiences with trauma, perhaps in an effort to ask for help, we are met with these expert opinions. Often, these opinions are rooted in stigmatization, which is an inherent lack of education and awareness.

Stigma is by definition “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”. Disgrace is the key word. Stigma takes the position of looking down upon someone and their ‘particular circumstance’. Statements that criticize another person’s mental health are full of stigma because those statements are assuming there is something ‘disgraceful’ about that person as well as something ‘disgraceful’ about the quality of who they are. Having a mental illness of any kind is stigmatized because society still largely sees mental illness as ‘disgraceful’ and the person who is mentally ill as ‘disgraceful’ as well. Those who are depressed should just get happy. Those who are anxious should just calm down. Addicts and alcoholics are bad people who need to be morally adjusted. People who are ‘sick’ are ‘crazy’ and instead of being treated, they should be ‘locked up’. These are the hidden thoughts and messages behind stigma.

The confounding amount of shame present in these statements puts a hinder on someone’s choice to go to treatment. Of course, anyone is capable of rising above the shame and stigma in order to get the help they need. However, these statements can be undermining and condescending to the point where they might convince someone that there is a problem worthy of seeking treatment for. Worse, these statement of stigmatization and shame might convince someone that they are worth seeking treatment.

Stigma plays a damaging role in recovery until it is recognized and overcome. Getting informed about mental health, trauma, and addiction is the first step in stopping the shame and stigma. The second step is speaking out against such statements when you hear them and presenting the facts. Lastly, have compassion for yourself and for others who are struggling with mental illness. Everyone has a story.

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health as a result of trauma, there is help available. Call The Guest House Ocala for information on our private residential treatment programs: 1-855-483-7800