Tag Archives: stigma

Cut Prince Harry some slack – the guy did good!

Prince Harry has spoken out about his mental health problems following the overwhelming grief he felt as a child trying to cope with the death of his mother, Princess Diana. Like so many other traumatised children the young prince locked his feelings away, hiding from the maelstrom of emotion that threatened to engulf him. By demonstrating the humanity that we all share Prince Harry has illustrated an important point about mental health. Mental disorder is no respecter of persons. Any of us, rich or poor, privileged or otherwise can experience emotional problems and any of us can need help to overcome mental health problems.

So many people seem to have missed the point of Harry’s speech. They can’t see past his privileged status and some even suggest that his wealth and position should somehow protect him from the realities of life and the human condition. They seem to equate psychological vulnerability with wealth. So my question to them is this…

Where do we draw the line? How much money is enough to secure emotional and mental health? How poor does one have to be to experience depression or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)? What about schizopherenia? Does that only strike poor people too?

You don’t need to be a monarchist to appreciate the truth of Harry’s message. I’m not but I’m still grateful that such an influential young man found the courage to speak out about his early trauma.

Taking offence

I’ve been thinking about the modern, trendy culture of taking offence. To be honest, this isn’t a new area of concern for me. It’s something that’s been irritating me for some time. I’ve never really understood how anyone can justify feeling offended by another person’s opinions. I mean – stupid people, ill-informed people, even just downright nasty and hateful people have always been with us but that’s no reason for me to be offended. Their bad behaviour or hateful speech says much more about them than it ever could about me. There might be a case for them to feel embarrassed or ashamed but not for me. That’s their problem – not mine. 

Yet many people seem to think it’s appropriate to be offended just because somebody else expresses a different opinion. I don’t agree. Even if that person expresses opinions about me. There’s a wonderful Buddhist maxim which goes… 

“Your opinion of me is none of my business’”

I won’t say I’m ‘enlightened’ enough never to care what other people think about me but I will say that the more I concern myself with their opinions the more likely I am to be unhappy. Where’s the fun in that? 

So don’t expect to catch me being offended by your insults because I know that what you say just reflects back to you and exposes aspects of your own character that a wiser man might prefer to keep to himself.

Even worse than taking offence at what people say about us is the habit of taking offence at what other people say about others. This is a growing trend in our society. People get offended on behalf of other people, regardless of whether or not that other person would actually care. That’s just crazy!

I’m a mental health nurse and as such I notice when people get offended on behalf of people with mental disorders. It’s an attentional thing. We notice the things that we’re connected to. So many people are keen to express offence on behalf of people with schizophrenia, with personality disorder, with depression or whatever else comes up in conversation without once stopping to consider how the people involved might actually feel about it.That’s notbto suggest that we shouldn’t fight against stigmatisation. I’ve done that myself, for example when complaining about Halloween costumes depicting ‘psycho’ killers. But that’s not the same as closing down all discussion.

People with diabetes don’t get offended when others mention diabetes.

People with cancer don’t get offended when oncology is the topic of conversation

And as a rule people with PTSD aren’t offended when traumatic stress disorders are mentioned. In fact I know lots of people who think it’s ridiculous to take offence at the mention of a diagnosis. They have no problem with discussions about their conditions – often very challenging discussions that often even cast doubt on the reliability, accuracy or even existence of the condition itself. That’s the nature of psychiatry, folks. We know for sure far less than most people think we do.

When you get offended on behalf of others all you achieve is to create the impression that the other person is more sensitive than they really are. You make them appear ‘precious’ or a ‘snowflake’ who just isn’t strong enough to handle everyday conversation – and let’s face it – everyday conversation covers a very wide range of comments and they’re not always pleasant – but they are part of life’s rich tapestry and most people are more than capable of seeing through the bullshit of liars and of hostile, insulting malcontents. By presuming that the other person can’t handle normal life you do them no favours. All you really achieve is to increase stigma against an already stigmatised group. Well done you!

So for pity’s sake – stop taking offence, either on your own behalf (that’s just a pointless attempt to close down conversation) or especially on behalf of other people who most probably won’t thank you for masking them look like over-sensitive snowflakes. People with mental health problems have enough to deal with without you adding to the stigma they face.

More stigmatising Halloween ‘fun’?

After campaigning so successfully in the past I really thought the mental health community had seen the last of this awful sort of abusive marketing in UK. Asda & Tesco both seem to have learned their lesson, judging by the range of costumes on offer on their respective shelves, but others have not.


The impact of social stigma on people with mental health problems is bad enough without this crap making it worse.
I just Emailed this to customer.services@joke.co.uk
I’d be really grateful if others would do the same.

“Dear Sir,

I sincerely hope I’m not the only person writing to you to express my disappointment at your choice of Halloween costumes for sale this year. The impact of social stigma on people with mental health problems is immensely detrimental. Your stereotypical and grossly misleading Halloween costumes can only exacerbate an already serious problem of social discrimination.

In recent years similairly stigmatizing and abusive Halloween costumes were presented for sale by other UK retail outlets including Asda & Tesco. Public outrage (& a subsequent drop in their retail sales) caused them to see the error of their ways. They do not appear to be making the same mistake again this year.

I would be very keen to discuss this issue further with you, should you be interested in learning more about the serious harm this sort of stigmatization creates.

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Sorensen
(Mental health nurse, trainer, writer & speaker)”

If you agree that this sort of stigmatisation is unacceptable why not Email: customer.services@joke.co.uk
to tell them so?

Or write to:
Jokers’ Masquerade
Abscissa.Com Limited
Union House
Kennet Side
RG14 5PX

You can telephone them on: 0845 1300 818.

They’re on Twitter too: @Joke_co_uk

This abusive company’s ridiculing, stigmatising approach to people with mental health problems is neither appropriate nor acceptable in a civilised society. Please join me in letting them know.