Stigma! What does it look like?

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What is social stigma?

Description: Social stigma is the disapproval of, or discrimination against, a person based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. Social stigmas are commonly related to culture, gender, race, intelligence and health. Wikipedia

My first shocking experience with mental health stigma as an adult happened shortly after honorably separating from the US Navy in September 1965.  It was in that moment that my world as a young adult with a bright future was seriously threatened.  Following a very productive and exciting interview process with a Fortune 100 company in Los Angeles, I fully expected an offer for employment as an apprentice teleprinter technician.  I felt grateful for the excellent training and experience received in the Navy as a radioman.  But all the excitement and hope for a career in telecommunications came to a shocking halt when the HR recruiter said, “even though your qualifications exceeded minimum requirements I could not be hired!”  I thought with complete dispair, “how could this be?”  It was at that moment, the HR recruiter revealed to me that my hospitalization for severe depression and anxiety while serving in the US Navy was considered a risk. It was then that I decided to never ever speak of my mental health diagnosis…my secret, forever put away in a box and out of reach.  This was stigma then, it is still stigma in the 21st Century.  (Note: I was fortunate to receive a job offer from another respectable telecom company and started my career.) We can all do so much more to stamp out stigma. Please help make a difference by taking quality time to talk openly and honestly with friends and family about mental health. Awareness is the first step in healing invisible wounds.

Steve Sparks