Pesky slights, whether intentional or not, hurt, and persons with mental health needs may hear words that further seem a mark of shame. It happens all the time to each of us in hidden ways. These little slights have a name: microaggressions.
Microaggressions are slights that are so slight we don’t even notice them, and they are said by decent, moral people who haven’t realized they were making derogatory remarks or communicating a negative message.
You can be an advocate at work or in an institution if you see microaggressions as part of the pattern of communication or promotion or health insurance. For example, the use of the words “psycho” and “crazy” is common and thoughtless and is a mark of shame contributing to an attitude of stigma. “Now that is a crazy thing to say” might be replaced by, “That is an inappropriate thing to say.”
Talk! Talk! Talk!
Here are some other conversation examples containing microaggressions:
- No, she doesn’t have mental problems. She seems perfectly normal to me.
- Are you sure she needs counseling? She is the life of the party.
- He isn’t crazy. He is just different, and he has a right to be that way.
- She can’t be depressed. Look. She is able to work.
- You are really brave to speak up about your mental illness and not be worried others will see you as weak.
- You are very competent, but we don’t want to overly stress you in your condition.
Advocate for yourself and others
It is not easy to censor what is coming out of your mouth because it originates in your brain and begins with an awareness of the impact a simple word can have on someone struggling with mental health issues. As an advocate, you can begin with the awareness of the consequences of your words and the use of those words by others around you. The words may be spoken or in print. Become aware of microaggressions and the impact they may be having on you. Are there words that shame? Advocate for yourself as well as others.