The pain of discrimination and stigmas
Being discriminated against based on an attribute you possess is painful and humiliating. People discriminate against colour, age, race, socioeconomic status and people with disabilities. Some people view a person with a mental health issue with disregard and lack of respect. The problem is not with the person with the mental illness, rather it is with the person who is discriminating.
The pain of depression is difficult to bear without being discriminated against. Fortunately, there are many people who are understanding and take great offence at the mistreatment of others. There are many stereotypes about people diagnosed with depression and it is important to get the facts straight.
What is discrimination? What is a stigma?
Discrimination is an action towards another that excludes, isolates and judges and is meant to cause harm to the target person. In many countries it is against the charter of human rights or equivalent law to mistreat people based on personal biases. Discrimination is faced by many:
- In the workplace
- In school
- Public institutions
It is somewhat surprising that so many people continue to discriminate when much progress has been made for the fair treatment of all by different groups of people whose message is the same; it is wrong to discriminate.
A stigma is similar and leads to negative actions towards a person based on stereotypes, that is a one size fits all character description, based on erroneous information. People with depression suffer from the stigma attached to it. In general, because of negative exposure in the media, the term mental illness is sometimes used when someone commits a crime. The vast majority of people who have a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violent crime rather than be the perpetrator.
Yes, mental illness can be scary but so much more for the sufferer than anyone else. It is not a character flaw or a lack of good morals that cause someone to have a mental illness. It is the same as any other illness and people should be honoured for the strength it takes to make it day to day when suffering from an episode of major depressive disorder.
How to handle being discriminated against
It takes courage to defend against the hurtful actions of others and while it may be tempting to retaliate, it is best to be the bigger person and not make the situation worse. Insult for insult will not accomplish any good. There are sayings akin to retaliating with kindness and sometimes this will shame the other person for being so rude. Some people however will seemingly never change their ways, so it is best to avoid them if you can.
If you are discriminated against at work, you may have legal rights to protect you from any further harm. Make sure before you make a complaint that there isn’t a valid reason for the behaviour of your superior or coworkers. E.g. not getting a promotion. Was the decision made with prejudice?
In many countries the person filing the complaint should not fear retaliation for speaking up for themselves because they are legally protected by company policies. You may be able to make a complaint against a person without them knowing about it.
It is up to you to use your best judgement when responding to ignorance. Yes, it is hurtful, but remember it is ignorance on the part of the other person who is discriminating, and it is not your fault. You may not be able to change someone from mistreating you, but you can hold your head up high and not carry the shame and disgrace that was attempted to be put on you.