This mother’s experience is an all too familiar example of social stigma. That is, stereotypes about, prejudice for, and discrimination towards others perceived as different in some way. The stigma of mental illness/mental health problems remains common, despite determined social intervention. Stigma is regularly experienced by parents of children with mental health problems. Parents feel blamed by others, judged as bad parents, and shamed by strangers, friends, and family.
Stigma is pretty damaging. In parents of children with mental health problems, in particular, it can lead to social withdrawal, sadness, anxiety, difficulties engaging with therapy and compliance with treatment. In some circumstances, stigma can lead to the worsening of mental health conditions – not only is the child at risk of this, but so is the parent as well. Whilst it can be hard to get away from, there are things we can do to get unstuck from it. But first, a word on why it’s so sticky and toxic to people who experience it.