If I were living in a “stigma-free zone”, what might that look like?
For starters, I presume it would mean that people with mental illness would not experience stigma, or discrimination. By some miracle? It would mean ‘human rights’ principles and laws applied equally in the case of people with mental illness, alongside of those who are gay, black, or disabled, or of different religions – and of course middle-class white guys. But what exactly does that mean?
What value does that have, if the reality in a particular case means watching a person “go down” clutching their bottle of anti-depressants all the way, and doing nothing to help as they hit bottom. Because that is probably the greater problem they’ll have to face: being unable to function as effectively as normal – at least partly because of drugs; possibly losing a job; and maybe even losing their home as a result. What, pray tell, are we prepared to do about that?
What a mentally ill person might need from us – their neighbour – will be different from person to person. And will not have that much to do with their ‘human rights’. What she needs from us – her neighbours-at-large – is protection of her home while she is in distress, until she recovers. She’ll need food. And she’ll need emotional and practical support. The same could be said for a family with a member in distress. Why would we do this? Because we realize it could happen to any of us, and we’d hope for the same compassion.
When a home is to be foreclosed because the owner hasn’t worked for three months due to serious depression, how can we prevent that? How, exactly, can we ‘care’ for him? This is a conversation that needs to be happening – throughout the western world.
What are we willing to do? How caring are we – really?