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Old 10-18-2013, 01:33 PM
Location: Montreal
814 posts, read 1,124,692 times
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In the discourse about discrimination (both public and self-imposed) towards the mentally ill, why is the term "stigma" used much more than "psychophobia" or "mentalism", if discrimination towards gays and lesbians is called "homophobia" much more than "stigma" or that towards women is called "misogyny" and not so much "stigma"? After all, homophobia and misogyny are merely "stigma" by another name!

In other words, as an example, why do mental health groups, the popular media, etc. use "fighting stigma" much more than "fighting psychophobia" or "fighting mentalism"? What makes the expression "the stigma surrounding mental illness" more popular than simply "psychophobia" or what not?
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Old 10-18-2013, 04:33 PM
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It might be because "mentalism" already refers to a form of entertainment that varies from people with real or supposedly real psychic abilities to people who are actually charlatans, doing "magic" tricks to fool people. That would have nothing to do with people's feelings about the mentally ill.

Psychophobia would really mean "fear of the mind" not "fear of mental illness."

I think that too many forms of discrimination have been made into "-isms" and that might be why you expect this kind of discrimination to follow suit. In reality the suffix "ism" really means "the practice of" not "having a bias against." While we all "get" what racism and sexism mean, if you look at the literal definitions, they mean "the practice of race" or "the practice of sex." what people are really talking about is "anti-black-people" or "anti-white-people" or "anti-people from different races" or "anti-women" or "anti-men." Those cumbersome groups of words got replaced by slick language doctors who invented the "isms." Now people tend to think ism=bias against something.

But if we go by their erroneous definitions, "lesbianism" would mean "discrimination against lesbians." and Marxism would mean "bias against Karl Marx."

What about discrimination or bias against people with physical disabilities? A few people might talk about "able-ism" but for the most part they just sound silly. Sometimes there just isn't one good word for "discrimination or bias against a certain group."

With mental illness, stigma doesn't really refer to other people's biases or acts of discrimination (though it's been stretched to cover those ideas, thereby diluting the true meaning). Stigma really, originally referred to the shame the person with the illness feels, and how this shame prevent their seeking treatment. So the true meaning of the "stigma" of mental illness is about the shame surrounding these illnesses, not about the discrimination that occurs.

But it's understandable how, since those two ideas are so intertwined, that the idea of "stigma" got stretched to cover the feeling of other people toward the mentally ill.

I personally think "homophobia" is a silly word that doesn't truly fit people who have biases against people who are gay and who treat them badly. In most cases, is not about "fear" but more about disgust or anger. I "get" why "homophobia" was chosen: I think it's kind of like deflating the power of homophobes by calling them "afraid" or "chicken." Sure, some homophobes are "afraid" of "gayness" but most feel disgust, hatred, anger, or at least lack of understanding toward gay people, not fear.

When I've done presentations or led discussion about the "stigma" against mental illness, I try to talk about BOTH the shame that people with a mental illness feel AND the biases and discrimination they face from others. They are interrelated, but separate ideas.
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