Maio: stigma of mental illness ought to be addressed

Whenever someone argues they want to “get rid of” the stigma of mental illnesses, or “reduce” the stigma of mental illnesses, they have lost sight of the real issue: People who direct that prejudice.

Harold Maio

It is they who ought be our focus, educating them ought be the focus of our attention. It is tilting at windmills to address the image they promote, while ignoring them.

The Women’s Movement made no such mistake. They told us point blank to stop directing that term at rape, we had done enough harm. We stopped. Educated to the harm we had been doing, we stopped. Mental health advocacy has yet to apply that model. Far too many of us continue to misdirect our language.

Whenever someone suggests to you, citizen, reporter, editor, there is a stigma to mental illnesses, ask them specifically what they mean, for “stigma” is but a cover word for realities better expressed than sublimated.

This editorial is in response to an article focused on local suicide rates.

Among those realities, as the Women’s Movement pointed out, are ignorance of the issue — vicious assault was the real issue, physical, often brutal assault — and the prejudice and discrimination resulting from that basic lack of understanding of the reality.

Dr. Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institute of Health argued that the pretense stigma has hampered research, he takes issue with the term stigma:

“It’s sort of a victim(izing) word,” says Dr. Insel. “I think what we’re trying to do is get more people empowered and trying to talk about this more as discrimination or injustice.

Editor’s note: Mr. Maio appears to be a retired editor who resides in Florida. He can be reached at

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