The impact of stigma

Kylie’s story

1104_camp_kylie‘I was diagnosed with schizophrenia a decade ago and in my search to understand my new illness, the media offered me a skewed vantage point where it appeared schizophrenia was simply a licence for bad behaviour. Now, on the inside looking out, I recognise what an inaccurate portrayal this is, the exception rather than the rule. Like many living with schizophrenia, I was a victim of violence and abuse rather than the perpetrator.

'There are so many people like me out there succeeding, living, working, raising families and contributing. Stigma stops these same people from putting their hand up to say they are living meaningful, purposeful lives. This is to the detriment of those newly diagnosed with schizophrenia seeking hope for recovery and society at large. The media’s power to do good becomes evident when we see community attitudes towards depression improve through proper reporting and education.’

Kylie was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 28. Kylie is a mother of two, works as a client support worker in mental health and lives in regional Victoria.

Read Kylie's Snapshots story.


Jo’s story

1011_camp_jo‘As a carer, I get hurt when I see remarks that label people who are mentally ill with names such as "fruitcake", "nutter" or "psycho." Don't they realise that this is my son they are talking about? There are times when carers feel forced to lie to avoid facing the possibility of demeaning reactions or remarks. This is degrading, especially when as a general rule in life, you make it a point not to lie. As if it's not bad enough for someone to have a mental illness, to be punished for it by being the victim of stigmatising comments is like kicking a man when he's down.

'I believe editors and producers have a moral responsibility to avoid cruel discriminatory words. They hold the power to influence children as well as adults. It would be great if the media made conscious decisions to use their power to promote compassion, understanding and education about mental illness. This would help to eliminate fear which, along with ignorance, is one of the primary causes of stigma.’

Jo is a published author and mother of three living in Melbourne. Her son has been living with bipolar disorder for 20 years.

Read more about Jo and her son, Miles, in SANE Snapshots.