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Using the term “stigma” assaults victims again

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Nursing Times Editor, Jenni Middleton, responds to a letter about stigma and mental health

“People may experience discrimination, but to argue that discrimination is “stigma” is to again assault the victim (“How does stigma affect people with mental illness?”).

Whoever controls language controls perception. 

On a daily basis, I attempt to educate people about negative language, for example “the” mentally ill (people represented as a generic); mentally ill “stigma” (a negative assigned to people); and mental illness “stigma” (a negative assigned to an illness).

I also note who assigns each, and who passes them on. The source is often a professional (often in mental health, whose own source is higher education). Repeating the prejudice are reporters, editors, advocates and victims of the prejudices themselves.”

Harold A Maio, by email

Editor’s response: “The word “stigma” is often used by mental health professionals. The article was about “self-stigma” – the person with a mental health issue internalising their prejudice. Should nurses not use the word? What do you think?”

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