Shame and Stigma

In our not-so-distant past, people with mental illness were kept out of sight. Today, we are still dealing with the shame and stigma.

Jonathan Arenburg
Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan is a mental health blogger, published author, and speaker. He has appeared in numerous newspapers and has been a guest on many podcasts.

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Throughout my many encounters with others, random or planned, I have learned so much about people. Seems we all have a story to tell. While it’s a no-brainer that everyone has a life history, what’s interesting about them is, not their differences, but their commonalities.

Notably, the most common thread I see is the prevalence of mental-health related challenges. Therefore, if you show genuine compassion, you’re good at making people feel safe and comfortable enough to tell their story, you will eventually hear their mental health story.

Sadly however, we as a society have covered our feelings with a blanket of shame and silence. As a result, we turn inward and let it stew. But why? Well, if I were a betting man, I would bet my money on its origins. For example, in the first part of the last century, there was more emphasis placed on family status within the community. “Can’t be ruining the family name.” Because what happened in a family mattered, many things were taboo, especially mental illness.

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Mental illness was something that “we just don’t talk about.” A phase I heard all too often from my elders growing up. But in reality, it went much further than that. Family members who suffered from a mental health condition were committed to institutions. This effectively kept the ill member out of the sight of others and thus, the family name was intact. What’s worse, many suffers were completely disowned by their loved ones. As someone who’s worked with people with mental illness and mental disabilities, I saw this all too often. People abandoned by those who were supposed to love them… I was heartbroken by this, every time.


While this was true for many, it’s worth mentioning that it wasn’t the case for all. Despite the many sad stories, there were lots of families who were fully invested in their loved one’s life. I remember them fondly.

… But like any other dark period of history, there is a sort of residual conciseness that impedes said progress.

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So then, what are the fragments left by this darker period of mental-health history? Well, the shame and stigma are the biggies. While we may not hide a family member with a mental illness today, society still sees us as “dysfunctional” or “less than.” A notion that is often shared by the sufferer.

Shame and stigma

As a result, I am constantly running into a common fear that leaves people locked in their misery. It’s as though they are mentally institutionalized in a sense. A fact I find heartbreaking. Honestly, I am so concerned for my fellow silent sick people, that I was motivated to author my new book, The Road To Mental Wellness. In it, I talk about my life-long struggle with depression, anxiety and later, PTSD. My hope is that it will inspire others to get the help they need.

Although I do my best to inspire in The Road To Mental Wellness – the book, it’s far from my only attempt. No doubt you’re also seeing my passion to help the mentally ill through this blog. Please, feel free to have a look at more posts below. and stop by my wellness shop and support my ongoing efforts to help others.

Read my first ever blog post: The Road To Mental Wellness


I have also had the honor of sitting down with others who seek me out because they feel that that they have nowhere else to go. As a person living with mental illness and a trained counsellor, I am more than happy to be there for those who are terrified of anyone knowing. After all, we all need a safe place to free us from our mental shackles.

I am always inspired by the reaction I get when I hear their stories. First, I listen and then I tell them things like, “We will work on it together.” or “I believe in you.” But the one that evokes the most reaction? When I assure them that they are not alone and that there is nothing wrong with them. I am humbled when I see the shoulders drop and the tears of relieve build in their eyes. We can indeed do this together. For some, this is all they need to hear to start healing; whist others are need more – both are good. Remember, everyone has their own process.

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Finally, when I help others heal, a part of me heals too. I consider this a mental wellness win for all of us. So please, don’t suffer in silence, you deserve to heal. Find that safe person to talk to.

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Categories: Anxiety, Behaviour and Personality, Depression, inspiration, Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness Month, PTSD, Road To Mental Wellness-the book, Wellness Store

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