War Stories: Perpetuating Stigma

Posted on May 9, 2011

Kenneth J. Dudek
President, Fountain House

I heard a piece on the radio about psychiatric hospitals, and it reminded me of something I've long thought: psychiatric workers, from all professional settings, can be the biggest source of stigma.
The reason is what I call war stories. When psychiatric professionals speak to lay people about their jobs, they often encounter misunderstanding or apprehension. In the course of conversation, to explain how interesting their work is, they tell a story about the worst person they’ve worked with or the most bizarre thing a person has done. That example, which to the professional is an exception, becomes the rule for his or her acquaintance.  
If you’re a mental health professional, you’ve probably done this at some point. We must tell stories that humanize the people we work with, rather than demonize them.

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