Monday 1 June 2015

Stigma Fighters Anthology volume 1, edited by Sarah Fader

Stigma Fighters Anthology volume 1, edited by Sarah Fader, is available on Kindle and print.

This book is important. It has the potential to change lives. It has the potential to save lives.

In the Introduction, mental health speaker and advocate Gabe Howard says, “We hope reading our stories will give you a glimpse into our lives and inspire you to move forward in your own life or inspire you to support someone you love.”

He is speaking to me: one of the “well ones”. I do not myself live with mental illness, but like many of us — indeed like all of us if we only knew it or opened our eyes to notice — I know many who live with the realities of mental illness every day of their lives.

Sarah Fader, founder of Stigma Fighters and herself a contributor to the anthology expresses this so well:

I’m your neighbour, I’m sitting next to you on the train, I’m talking to you in the grocery store, I’m smiling at you as we pass one another on the street. I’m just like everyone else you meet; only I’m not. Because I live with a significant mental illness that challenges me every day. [...] But here’s the thing. Someone you’re sitting next to in a coffee shop is just like me, but they won’t tell you that. Mentally ill people are living among us; they’re just silenced continually by our society.

That silencing is stigma, “a word the mental health community uses to explain the discrimination, intolerance and prejudice people living with mental illness face every day. It’s a word that describes how unfairly we are often treated.” (Gabe Howard.)

Stigma is founded on a misguided “them and us” mentality; on the criminally falacious belief that those with mental illness are somehow “other” (and less... less valuable, less worthy, less capable... less everything-that-matters).

Reading through the stories (told with such simple courage and honesty) I was struck again and again by how ridiculously unsustainable such thinking is. The seventy people who have volunteered to share their stories are not less than anything.

It is time to wake up. There is no “them and us”. There is just us.

Or as Sarah Fader puts it: “There is no crazy...only human.”


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