It’s exhausting! … I heard this phrase twice last week.

The first time, I read it in the newspaper. Kim, a young woman from LV, described how tiring it is to have a mental illness and to live with the stigma every day.  She wouldn’t ask for extra sick days when she needed them. It was exhausting to hide her illness from potential employers or dates.

All she wanted was for the burden, of how her mental illness was perceived by others, to be removed.

The day I read this article was also the day before the Iowa caucus.NPR ran a story about Muslims in Iowa.

Selim, the father who was being interviewed, stated that it was exhausting to live his life under a public microscope. He yearned for a life without having to explain himself – that he is like everyone else – a father of two who wants to take care of the environment and volunteer at the library.  He didn’t want to be viewed as a dangerous person when he took his girls to the library.

Days off for illness and trips to the library!! How fundamental is that?

And yet both of these individuals are victims of stigma. According to the Merriam Webster’s definition, stigma is a “set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.”

I thought a lot about stigma that day. I thought … what is the best antidote to stigma??

And I realized it’s education. The same education that can assist with any conflict — when people loosen the grip on their preconceived and hardwired notions about something long enough to be open to learning about it.

Then … and only then … when we are willing to be educated, can these two individuals from different worlds stop being exhausted and divert that energy to the good things they want to do.


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