The Harm of Mental Health Stigma

By Mark Antony Rossi

I’ve been attracted to the notion of therapy for Military Members ever since I learned my grandfather suffered from shell shock years after WWII. Shell shock is what they used to call post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He ultimately left his home one cold winter night and froze to death on a park bench.

He didn’t leave a note and probably didn’t intend to purposefully die. Yet I do not doubt it crossed his tormented mind. My grandmother said “the US Army took my husband and returned this man.” It doesn’t take much to measure her disappointment in those words. My grandfather was gone years before he expired on that frozen winter night.

Even in this modern day of civil and gay rights the specter of mental illness casts a shadow on the house of so-called normal society. You’d think we only noticed it in the last few decades. But mental illness has been with us ever since someone coined the term “eccentric.” It’s been couched in clever language or locked in expensive institutions by wealthy families (aka Kennedy’s) ashamed of public knowledge of a diseased family member.

There are counseling therapies, art therapies, group therapies and various levels of pharmaceuticals capable of addressing mental health aberrations. There is no legitimate need to suffer or suffer this malady alone. Still as one of the last remaining stigmas we all have a part in educating society not to fear citizens dealing with this affliction.

Hollywood has come a long way in portraying racial and sexual minorities with dignity and sensitivity but it hasn’t yet fully understood how to compose the military veteran dealing with PTSD. In too many instances veterans are shown as unhinged semi-criminals damaged by combat and bent on vengeance. These inaccurate descriptions do great harm not only public perceptions but to veterans needing assistance but hesitant to ask due to fears of being viewed as a potential powder-keg.

Thousands of honorable men and women return home from long tours of dangerous duty to resume their lives. The time they lost a painful period especially in the minds of small children. These soldiers need our love and respect. For those who suffer from wounds unseen they are casualties of war requiring medical attention, family support and private prayer. Our freedoms depend on their valiant service. Their safe and healthy integration with society is our responsibility. We should never fail them.

About the Author: Mark Antony Rossi is a poet, playwright and author of the bioethics volume “Dark Tech” now available from Amazon. His most recent plays have been produced in Liverpool and New York. 

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  1. I agree. Mental illness is such a difficult disease to mitigate. So many are afflicted with PTSD: Veterans, financial disasters, drug addicted, the parents of the drug addicted, natural disasters, to name only a few. I believe the biggest emphasis should be on convincing those afflicted to seek help. I see that as the biggest obstacle, of course, they must have adequate care when they do seek help. How to accomplish this, not sure, but we can definitely help those who are in our universe.

  2. Many thanks for your input.