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Youth Voices

In my own words: Stigma

10 December 2021

The Wolfson Centre’s Youth Advisory Groups recently discussed the topic of stigma.

A Youth Advisor has shared their own reflections and thoughts on the topic of stigma and the associated shame a young person can feel when struggling with poor mental health.

Please note that this blog contains references to suicide.


The issues with mental health stigma run deep in every area of our lives – yet, for something so prevalent, it is overlooked at almost every turn.

I can give countless examples – from my brother revealing he wanted to kill himself at age eight and a doctor telling him it’s not possible for him to be depressed at such a young age and showing him the door. To me, struggling for years to get my diagnosis of a personality disorder because I do not have the classic symptom of anger outbursts.

Myself and other members of the YAG bonded over being shunned and discredited by medical staff purely because of their preconceptions of our diagnosis.

I could expand on each one to show you the hardships and shame that come with it but for the sake of time, I’ll focus on one keyword.


Shame and stigma go hand in hand, and you tend to find that one fuels the other very effectively, creating an environment where it becomes close to impossible to wade through the quicksand of your emotions and shout for help.

If you do you tend to find yourself ignored, being referred to as a ‘revolving door patient’ or frequent flyer’ -i.e. someone whom the doctor or medical personnel has already decided they do not
want to help.

We haven’t even mentioned yet people using hyperbolic language like “I’m so OCD I can only eat green peppers and HAVE to have all my pens in a perpendicular pattern or I can’t function” or “I dropped my coffee on the floor I wanna kill myself”, cheapening very real and very scary mental illnesses which make it even harder to fight to be seen as valid.

Growing up in an environment where you’re shamed for having a mental illness at every turn and can’t even trust your doctor to take you seriously it is easy to slip into a downward spiral and be caught in that vicious cycle of relapse and recovery, and as someone who has been there, I never want another young person to go through that heart-breaking journey.

We need to tackle stigma on a multi-pronged approach including parents, teachers, and doctors, and start as we mean to go on, and create an environment where a scared and sad child can go to a trusted adult and disclose how they feel and know they are going to be taken seriously.