Stigma – Part One

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For my post today I had planned to discuss a couple examples of how I used to look down upon the mentally ill, and how I sometimes still do, despite everything I’ve been through.  Then I got sidetracked from writing altogether as I had two sick little girls to take care of all day, and I was coming down with the same yucky bug they had.  Now it’s dark outside, and thank God the girls’ cooped-up energy levels are winding down.  Although I’m coughing & blowing my nose every two minutes, I can take a break to air my thoughts on the topic of stigma.  (It makes me feel better to do so!)

I’ve been using the word “stigma” more frequently than ever, but if you asked me to define it, I would stumble a bit in giving you an accurate description. Dictionary.com states “stigma” as being “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.”  (That works for me!)

Earlier today I visited my personal Facebook page and noticed that the International Bipolar Foundation posted a link to an article titled “The Stigma of Mental Illness” by Callie Parrish in the Daily Cougar.  (The Cougar is the official student-run publication at the University of Houston, and Ms. Parrish is an art and mathematics senior and their “Opinion” columnist.)  I read Ms. Parrish”s article with interest and I agreed with her clear, compassionate point of view.  Then I scanned the comment section below the article.  There was only one comment there, and I was surprised to see it was written by a man who had offended me in 2010. The commentator was the so-called “retired mental health editor” Harold Maio.

I’ll back up.  In 2010, I created the Santa Cruz County chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), a wonderful non-profit that helps those with mood disorders, and I formed a free women’s support group.  I contacted all the local papers to promote this group, which was sorely needed in our community, and a nice piece was written up by the editor of the Press Banner titled, appropriately enough, “A New Day Dawning”.

I eventually figured out that Mr. Maio, being retired, had lots of time to scan the internet for any articles that had the word “stigma” in them, and then he would write ridiculous comments.  He found the Press Banner piece about me and my group.  His comment in response to the article that delineated my suffering with a mental illness was this:

“I do not pose “stigmas” I do not support people who pose “stigmas.” I do not repeat “stigmas” people pose.  I do not support journalists who do.

Harold A. Maio, retired Mental Health Editor”

Now, obviously this man has some emotional problems, and my intuition tells me he may very well harbor his own mental illness. However, at the time the Press Banner printed my story, I felt quite vulnerable in “coming out” with my mental illness, and his non-supportive, bizarre comment totally rubbed me the wrong way.  Several of my friends and Press Banner readers I did not know took one look at what Mr. Maio wrote and came to my defense with intelligent, encouraging comments.

Here’s the Press Banner article link and a cute shot of my little girls:

http://www.pressbanner.com/view/full_story/7251763/article-A-new-day-dawning?

I like what a compassionate woman wrote today on the Facebook page of the International Bipolar Foundation, in response to Mr. Maio’s comments about stigma:

“He serves to bring home the author’s points. While (those types of comments) make me sad, they also make me determined to educate those who are so in the dark & greatly hinder the bipolar tribe from stepping into the light …where they deserve to be. We have to join together in the spirit of hope & harmony to change these harmful & hurtful mindsets.”

She’s 100% right.

I need to develop a thicker skin when it comes to this kind of situation, because spotting Mr. Maio’s asinine comment today triggered me.  I let that trigger run all over me and wasted valuable time freaking out about it – time that would have been way better spent comforting my girls, or writing my feelings out here.

In the Cougar article link below, you can see for yourself what Harold wrote about stigma: http://thedailycougar.com/2014/01/16/the-stigma-of-mental-illness/

Mr. Maio’s Cougar remarks include: “The stigma of mental illness. No one who calls prejudice and discrimination “stigma” should be trusted. See rape/stigma if you have forgotten. Harold A. Maio, retired Mental Health Editor” and then “The purpose of the term “stigma” is to discriminate. See rape/stigma for how successful it was. Women stopped directing that one only late in the 20th century.”

Okaaaaay.  Hate women much, Mr. Maio?  I shouldn’t poke fun, I know, because his views are disturbing on several levels.  It takes all kinds, I know, but I want to gravitate to the kind that is positive, helpful, and compassionate.   The kind that will fight the stigma against mental illness.  The kind that makes a difference for the greater good.  I’m still optimistic that we mentally ill people will be treated with more dignity in the years to come, and all the Mr. Harold Maios of the world can’t dampen that spark of hope inside of me.

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9 thoughts on “Stigma – Part One

  1. To “Amy” and anonymous. Harold the troll can bite me. He will not elicit any apology under the guise of faux intellectualism or anything else. We had an ad for a Pulitzer prize winning show online… He chose to make it all about him instead of actually saying anything about the show.
    At the very LEAST he was being extremely inapropriate and rude. At most, his clients were absolutely unwarranted. So defend him all you like.
    He does live here, he had no intention of see the musical and he crapped on it.
    That proved to me he is a huge Buttknuckle.
    Nuff said

    1. Dyane, I think your blog must be getting the message out their for there to be trolls coming out of the woodwork.
      I’m amazed how someone can practically write a novel on how a symantic argument over “stigma” is way more important than civility and manners. Yet, we saw it happen today.
      Your blog has good insight and it spans a long period of time. You haven’t given up on it. Thank you for that.

      1. Thanks so much – I couldn’t agree with you more! I won’t give up because I love blogging ,and I can handle those who want to use my blog as their potty with the touch of the “delete ” button! 😉

  2. I know this is 2 years old but I am happy to have found it. Harold is an Internet troll who posts condescending and abrupt comments seemingly without much forethought. Perhaps he thinks trolling brings attention and proves some point.

    It is rare to find an article that has not already been tainted by his typically rude and shortsighted comments. It is unfortunate because he is relatively knowledgeable, accomplished and could use his voice in more appropriate ways. I think he has a mental condition that makes him not grasp how his words are defeating the purpose: He seems not to grasp why people tend to use the word “stigma” and how he comes across. His analogies also tend to be off base. I agree with some of his points–after I take time to dissect his comments–as it pertains to the use of “the” because it is more appropriate to avoid unintentional othering. However, there is tremendous irony in Harold’s comments because being condescending and ignoring entire articles for the purpose of correcting word usage can also be deemed a form of objectification and othering.

    Harold probably uses Google Alerts or some equivalent to help him find mental health references to “stigma” and “the…” and he hurries to typically be the first to comment with a short-worded correction. It would be much more useful to address the larger issues and then possibly address word usage. I have read him do that before in a very well-read and well-articulated article but, apparently, that is a relative rarity.

    Apparently he also thinks he is the lone “expert” on the Internet and in comments sections. He needs to learn that is not the case and there is a such thing as “respectfully disagreeing, explaining your point and still disagreeing but coming to an understanding.”

    1. Beautifully & of course respectfully expressed, RespectfulDiscourse! 🙂 I’d write more but I’m on deadline to complete my memoir. Thanks for visiting my blog and I wish you the best.

  3. Thanks so much for posting this blog.
    I found it tonight after reading Mr. Maio’s trolling post in our local newspaper. We are putting on a production of Next to Normal on at a local theater. He, like other people I have seen, ripped our use of “stigma” in an article about our play.
    I’m not sure why a man who lives a thousand miles away would bother to take the time to negatively comment on our show. Next to Normal is a Pulitzer prize winning musical and most of the shows including ours have a panel discussion at the end. The panel always has professionals in the field as well as those people who have mental illnesses to help the audience on what is true and what may be exaggerated for dramatic effect. They also provide the audience a chance to speak about the musical and their own view on it as it relates to their own lives or not.
    I am concerned that this commenter in our local paper by his one fishing, trollish comment, will dissuade someone from going that may have otherwise gone or was on the fence.
    I can only hope Mr. Maio would go and actually have first had knowledge of things before he comments on anything.. But that is the drawback of the internet. People don’t have to be experts, or have first hand knowledge about which they speak.
    I’m sure he means well, but his intentions don’t match up with his comments. If his goal is to educate positively, come to the show and present those ideas afterwards. But all I see is two sentences that rip the play and a link I’m supposed to follow. How is that positive?

    1. Hi larelin! He is truly sick..sorry if I already wrote this somewhere, but I emailed him telling him to never contact me again and he ignored that request and contacted me again. That’s going from expressing one’s opinion to harassment.

      Someone like that needs serious help and I hope that he gets it. He could channel his ample energy into much more useful services to society rather than fixate on a word, and be negative and weird, but that’s a moot point because it’s clear he has untreated, rampant mental illness of some kind.

      On a much brighter note….

      Thanks so much for your kind comment and for the follow!!! Good luck with the “Next to Normal” production – I owe the CD of the show and it’s wonderful you’re putting on a production:))))

  4. Harold found me as well. After moderating a forum on Mental Health, Harold found an article which had used the word “the” before “mentally ill” and “stigma.” I more or less get his point, but I think he’s a weird sort of troll. The kind that mostly agrees with everything we say, but nitpicks about how we go about saying it. This was my response to him:

    Thanks for your work in this field. The ‘othering’ power of the word “the” is an interesting subject and you’re, of course, right to a certain degree. Unfortunately your tone in the email comes across as belligerent and will most likely cause a knee-jerk defensive response. You’re right, words matter. They matter almost as much as tone and intent, which were extremely positive and empathic at the forum as well as in the reporting of it. Your article in the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2011/nov/07/mind-your-language-mentally-ill-stigma) or your language primer (http://www.ignitingimagination.com/images/Sandy_Naiman_s_Mental_Health_Primer.pdf) have a much better tone.

    So, Dyane, thanks for writing about this.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comment, Michael! It’s intelligent, compassionate people like you who help me deal better with the “Harolds” of life. Too bad he can’t channel his energies into volunteering rather than trolling.

      At this point I really loathe the word “stigma” (I always have disliked the sound of it, regardless of its meaning, LOL) and what it represents, so lucky Harold – I’ll be using it less! 😉

      I shouldn’t make light of it, but sometimes that’s all we have left to do. Take care, Michael, and best wishes to you. Your comment brightened up my morning!!!

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