Doreen – A Fellow Stigma Stomper

Let me introduce Doreen to you folks.  Just call her Doreen, SBC : 'STIGMA BUSTER CHICK!'

Doreen writes a lil piece for our blog:

This summer, I picked up a copy of a newsletter put out by a professional association. When I read it, I almost passed out. The newsletter contained a repulsive joke with some of the most insulting, cruel references to people with mental illness that I have ever read. The joke repeated those poisonous stereotypes that constitute and perpetuate the destructive stigma about those with mental health challenges.

I was outraged. The reason that I was angry was because that publication would never have dared to print such slanderous statements about other oppressed groups like First Nations or gays. I thought to myself " Those of us with lived experience are no different. We have the same rights to dignity and respect as any other group. After I calmed down, I called the professional association and spoke to their secretary. I said that I worked with people with serious mental illnesses and that they are some of the most highly intelligent, courageous and exceptional people that I had ever met in my life. I said that it was unacceptable to slander and malign people in recovery in their newsletter. I said that it was cruel to take thoughtless jabs at people struggling with serious illnesses. I said that their joke showed a lack of respect to those in recovery and that people in recovery deserve better than that. I requested that they publish a very sincere apology in their newsletter to people living with mental illnesses.

Their office manager totally agreed with me. She took my concerns to their President and Board at their Board Meeting and all of the Board members unanimously agreed with me and my position.

They agreed to publish a formal apology and they did so in their August 2011 Newsletter.

I insisted in giving feedback to the content of their apology. Part of the newsletter's statement of apology are my words exactly

That offensive joke was in their newsletter for two monthes running before I noticed it. I am very glad that I was given this opportunity to counteract those destructive stereotypes out  there that perpetuate that stigma and keep it alive. I am very happy to have had the chance to take part in stomping out and shattering that stigma forever.

I look forward to a day where respect and honour for people in recovery is the rule and not the exception.

I also believe that the revolution starts from within. Each one of us has to take action. Each one of us with lived experience has to be a vigilant  watchdog and speak out whenever we see slander, disrespect and insensitivity shown to those with mental illnesses, whether it is in a casual conversation, in our media, in a book or article or anywhere. Each one of us has to say " NO!, that is unacceptable."  Then gradually we will forge a society of tolerance and respect for all our brothers and sisters living with mental illness.

Hazel Meredith, Executive Director of the BC Schizophrenia Society, Victoria Branch, asked me to tell my story as a guest speaker at the BCSS Board meeting on Wednesday, August 17. I told all of the Board Members about what happened and they gave me a round of applause.

Hazel published a " Kudos" to my stigma – busting in the new BCSS Victoria August 2011 Newsletter. Please see attached BCSS Newsletter.  

Here is the major part of the formal apology given by the professional association in their August 2011 Newsletter :

" We are sincerely sorry for printing a joke which referred unkindly to people living with mental illnesses. We understand that it was viewed as inconsiderate and disrespectful to persons living with mental illnesses. ( The following part is totally my wording ). We apologize sincerely to every person with a mental illness in Sidney, the Peninsula and elsewhere for that joke containing cruel references to mental illness that may have caused them hurt and injury. We applaud the courage and intelligence of every person who struggles every day with the ravages of mental illness.

Thank you to Doreen Marion Gee from Victoria B.C. who brought this matter to our attention.

We will certainly be more diligent in the future in choosing content that does not offend our readers."