by Zach Danssaert
I like to think of social stigma as the severe disapproval of a person because of a trait that indicates their deviance from social norms. The sub-conscious need to differentiate people who we consider different from what we construct to be normal is a flaw deeply ingrained in human nature that has led to some of the most devastating historical atrocities. From slavery to the holocaust, we cannot pretend to deny that our innate need to categorize leaves humankind in a far worse state.
While America as a whole has become more accepting with respect to perceived traits such as sexual orientation and race, social stigma remains extremely prevalent. From my experience, the stigmatizer is generally the person with self-esteem issues. By putting someone down, the stigmatizer enhances their self-confidence. For example, a student with bad grades might pick on a smart student by calling the student a nerd to compensate for his or her own inadequacies in the classroom. The negative stereotyping of individuals like the A+ student can cause stigmatized groups to have low self-esteem and depression. So what is being done to diminish the amount of social stigma in America? Large corporations like active minds and your very own Bowdoin College are working hard to make a difference.
For the tenth year in a row active minds will hold its 10th national “Stomp Out Stigma Walk” held at Georgetown University on November 15th. Those who have been affected by stigma, or just want to support friends and family, come together from all around the country to break the silence about social stigma with mental health. On a smaller, but just as important scale, Bowdoin College will be hosting its very own Day Without Stigma. This event will take place over the span of two days. The first day of the campaign a “Stomp Out Stigma” event will take place where a giant sheet of bubble wrap will be placed on the floor of Smith Union where students can come to literally stomp out stigma. For the second day of the event a table at the Union will be giving out anonymous compliment cards to place in friends’ mailboxes. This will serve to promote positive outlooks around campus. Finally, on Tuesday night a movie screening will be held at Mac House playing the film, “When Medicine Got it Wrong,” which is about the revolutionary movement of the treatment of psychiatric patients.