Stigma by Malky Kane

In 1957 a group called The Platters had a big hit with the song ‘The Great Pretender’. I won’t sing it……… however, it was so successful Freddie Mercury recorded it in the early 90’s.

The words of the song went like this –

‘Oh, yes, I’m the great pretender, pretending

I’m doing well.

My need is such, I pretend too much,

I’m lonely but no one can tell.’

This sums up exactly the feeling you get when you are stigmatised because of your age, your mental illness or your disability.

After you turn 65 and more, it seems to be open season to be stigmatised. An example of this is that I will be told my age at least three times in a day.   “WHY?”

The stigma of age, mental illness or some other disability is cruel and the people who use it against you don’t realise the damage it does.   It makes you feel totally worthless.

What they don’t seem to understand is that they too will be old someday or may experience a mental illness of some kind in later life.   They will then feel the pain we are feeling now but it will be too late.   Yes, it really does hurt.

What is stigma – it is a mark that sets you apart from others, for example if you wear trainers without the tick (Nike) you must be cheap.   If you wear the wrong football top in the wrong place – LOOK OUT!

Since I was at Primary School I always had a bad stammer so you can imagine how I was stigmatised and that lasted all through Primary School.   It eased off a bit in Secondary School but did not go completely – there is always one smart alec.

When the film The King’s Speech was released and some people thought it was funny to speak with a stammer but a joke is only funny if everybody laughs the person with the stammer doesn’t think it’s funny!

Now if you have a mental illness and you are over 65 you are now stigmatised in stereo – a double whammy if you like!

I suffer from panic attacks and this, as you will know, can bring on stress causing an increase in my stammer but people don’t bother about this side of ‘the joke’

Mental illness is used a lot with the media to justify an out of character occurrenc

Why are people with mental illnesses picked on? It’s just another illness. No one makes a joke about the various types of cancer.   Mental illness can be very serious and if people just tried to understand it more they would not make a joke of it.

We in Falkirk are fighting the stigma of mental illness and with your help and the help of the See Me campaign we can do more.

Just remember people like me who speak with a stammer or have panic attacks and are different from you due to other mental illnesses like bi-polar, hearing voices, etc. we are suffering these mental illnesses – we don’t need to suffer the stigma as well – but we DO need your help to assist us in the fight.

Being over 65 (or even 72) just means that we were born before you and therefore we have more experience of life and if you need advice, we might just have the answers.