Perhaps “eradicating” is a strong word. We hear it being used when we talk about the Covid virus. I have heard it used in other instances when something bad or evil needs to be gotten rid of. We have all heard about reducing or lessening stigma. By definition, eradicate means to “destroy completely, put an end to it”. I like that approach. In essence, search and destroy.
A few months ago, I received an email from an organization, I had not heard of before, asking whether I would participate as an interviewee in a live Facebook event. The email had hardly landed in my inbox before I responded with a resounding yes, because that’s who I am. On sober second thought I thought it might be prudent to look into this organization.
The email I received was from the Stigma Free Society, a mental health organization, operating out of Vancouver, BC. That certainly piqued my interest. Their goal is to create a world free of stigma through awareness, understanding and acceptance of ourselves and others. What I find particularly interesting is how they share personal stories of experiences or journeys that are often stigmatized, to provide real life examples. (www.stigmafreesociety.com )
I have always loved the story telling approach in addressing stress, anxiety and depression. Perhaps that is overstating it just a tad. I should say I have loved that approach ever since I started telling my story. I am a staunch believer in learning from one another. Any journey with mental illness is filled with various twists and turns. I often refer to it as a labyrinth. A labyrinth is defined as “a place with a lot of crisscrossing or complicated passages, tunnels or paths in which it would be easy to become lost.” So if you are in a labyrinth you either need a good GPS, a map or someone to talk you through finding your own way. And you will always find the best directions come from someone who has been down that road.
And then as I was mulling this over my wife, who was looking at her phone rather than the Netflix show she had picked, pipes up with something she just saw on social media. She was reading about human libraries. At first blush that sounded bizarre but then she went on to explain.
The concept is simple enough. Instead of reading a book, you “borrow” a person. That person then tells you their story, on the topic you have chosen, and answers questions you might have regarding the topic. (visit https://humanlibrary.org to get more details)
It took a minute but then the sheer brilliance of this concept kicked in. I thought of the huge potential this could have in our world. It seems that each day that goes by the world becomes more divided. Wouldn’t this be a great way to unjudged people and begin a journey of understanding?
Can you imagine being able to talk to a person that was walking a similar journey as you? If you could talk to someone dealing with anxiety or depression? If you could hear their story and ask questions, questions you have regarding your own journey? If we could, as the Stigma Free Society strives for, create awareness, develop an understanding of each other, and foster an acceptance of ourselves and others? Me thinks the world would become a better place. Let’s go for it. Make it a good one.