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I decided to do something today.

What have I done?

Well I have compiled a list.  And here it is….

Definitely Christian.

Definitely not a native of this country.

Definitely Foreign therefore.

Definitely Low – Incomed.

Definitely and Obviously Fat.

Definitely and Obviously Obese.

Definitely and Obviously Physically Ill.

Definitely and Obviously Disabled.

Definitely (and sometimes obviously) Mentally Ill.

Definitely Periodically Experiences Suicidal Ideation.

Definitely Periodically Experiences Self-Harming.

Definitely Fifty (this year).

Definitely a Single Parent.

Definitely Single.

Definitely Male.

Possibly a Traveler.

Possibly a member of the unsettled community.

Possibly of Jewish Origin.

There you go, that is my list.  In as much as it is a list of the related things that I could readily come up with for the purpose of this article.

So what is it a list of?

Well, if you haven’t already guessed, it is a list of things that all do or potentially do suffer from one form of  discrimination or another  or that have or potentially have a stigma attached to them even in this day and age.

Do me a favor if you will? – Check that list again for me and see if you can find the truly offensive items listed there within.

Found it?  No?  Interesting, neither could I.   Then why is it that in this day and age we are still treating people who fit one or more of those items listed (and remember they are just those that apply to me personally and there are therefore many others) with injustice, disdain or ridicule?

I ask this question not because of anything has happened to cause me offense or bring this matter to the for today but because Social Stigma has been something I have been dealing with all of my working life within the Social Care sector and indeed even longer in my personal life.

Nor, I should point out, do I believe that you the reader are personally guilty of this kind of thinking.  Or do I?  Indeed am I also guilty of it?

Dorothy Law Nolte PhD wrote a piece called ‘Children Learn What They Live‘ and it is indeed an excellent piece of writing that points out (as the title suggests) that children will learn those things that they have to live with.  But as excellent as it is I would suggest that we can apply it to other quarters…

Schizophrenic’s learn what they live, Mental Illness Sufferers learn what they live, Single mothers or fathers learn what they live. Etc.

If you want to put it to the test click on this ‘Children Learn What They Live’ link and everywhere you see the word ‘Children’ substitute it with ‘someone with schizophrenia’, or ‘a person with poor mental health’ or something that is appropriate to your circumstances and see if it still applies.  I bet in a lot of cases it does.

And lets not forget that very often what we experience now very often has long-lasting effects….

Children NOT ONLY Learn What They Live but they can then go on to Live In Their Later life What They Learned In Their Childhood.

It is a very interesting thought isn’t it?

A few paragraphs above I  made this statement, “Nor, I should point out, do I believe that you the reader are personally guilty of this kind of thinking.  Or do I?  Indeed am I also guilty of it?”

I really did not mean any offense by that statement and I sincerely hope none was inadvertently taken from it. In fact when I ask if you and I are also guilty of that kind of thinking I am not meaning in our thinking concerning  other people but concerning ourselves.

I entitled this article “Dare To Be Different” because that is what I want to encourage us all to be…

Different from those people who so sadly still have wrongful, unjust, harsh, disdainful and harmful attitudes within society today.

Different even from who we have learned to become as a result of this stigma and discrimination being targeted against us.

Different therefore in as much as we will not even allow ourselves to adopt (or to go on having) for ourselves and concerning ourselves, such stigma and discrimination.

To give full credit to and to borrow from Dorothy Law Nolte’s piece how about we make the following commitment to ourselves and to each other….

Even though I as ‘someone with schizophrenia‘ live with criticism, I WILL NOT learn to condemn.
Even though I as ‘someone with schizophrenia‘ live with hostility, I WILL NOT learn to fight.
Even though I as ‘someone with schizophrenia‘ live with fear, I WILL NOT learn to be apprehensive.
Even though I as ‘someone with schizophrenia‘ live with pity, I WILL NOT learn to feel sorry.
Even though I as ‘someone with schizophrenia‘ live with ridicule, I WILL NOT learn to feel shy.
Even though I as ‘someone with schizophrenia‘ live with jealousy, I WILL NOT learn to feel envy.
Even though I as ‘someone with schizophrenia live with shame, I WILL NOT learn to feel guilty.

[For the purpose of this exercise I have used ‘someone with schizophrenia‘ but you can simply substitute something more appropriate to your own circumstances in its place…]

And how about we commit to this not only in respect of our thinking towards others but ALSO towards ourselves and by so doing we can all Dare To Be Different!

[Editor’s Note:  The above article – originally published 31/01/2012 was edited and altered in response to a comment made concerning it.   This comment was legitimate and extremely helpful and can be found below and a fuller explanation and apology concerning the original article ca be found here.  I would very much like to thanks Luna Sunshine for her kindness and for taking time to gently point out my errors within the original piece.]