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  • Writer's pictureDawn Helmrich

My Whole Life I Have Been Dealing with the Word Stigma

Updated: May 23

Text with headshot of Dawn Helmrich. Headline: "Shining Light on Shadows: My Son’s Struggle With Social Anxiety and the Difficulty of Getting Help" Text: "One day, my son told me, the world was not set up for kids like him.  Kids that have social anxiety."

My whole life I have been dealing with the word stigma. According to the Webster’s Dictionary stigma is “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” Being raped carries a stigma that I have felt my entire life. Often it is this underlying thing, when people hear about my journey they feel bad for me or sorry that I went through what I went through, but the questions people ask often showcase exactly what stigma is. Almost as if I could have done something different to change my circumstances, or what they would have done differently.

The place that stigma exists the most in my life though is mental health. On a broad level people say that they understand mental health, but if you do not suffer from some type of mental health concern, you don’t really understand it. That is clear in the ways in which people, business, family, friends and society in general react when someone faces these challenges.


I will be discussing the stigma associated with mental health challenges on a new show that I launched with Neil Parekh, “Shining Light on Shadows: A Candid Conversation About Mental Health.” Tiffany Westerfield will be our guest.

You can watch the show Thursday, May 23 at 6pm CT / 7pm ET or the recording on Facebook, Twitter*, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram* and Neil’s website.

*The link to Twitter goes to Neil's account. The link to Instagram goes to my account. We won't know the exact urls until we go live.


The idea that people who have mental health concerns struggle to get out of bed, work, go places, get normal things done, often doesn’t make sense to people with no mental health concerns. Since I am very vocal about my mental health concerns, I often get advice from lots of people. I can always tell when someone still plays into the stigma of mental health. When I am given advice like, “just deal with it” or “we all have bad days” I know that that person does not understand anything that I am facing. Depression and anxiety are not about having a bad day. It isn’t something you can just get over. Having someone tell me to just relax and not feel so anxious is like telling someone who hit their funny bone really hard that it doesn’t hurt.

The idea that mental health does not carry the same type of stigma that it once used to might be true in our younger generation. But in the world that I live in and the people in the Gen X and Boomer age groups, mental health is still swept under the rug and not dealt with in a positive manner, at least not in a lot of circumstances.

My adult children who are in their 20s have a little bit of an easier time with their peers and can talk about their mental health concerns more freely, but they still work in environments with people in my generation and older.

I think the only way to truly reduce the stigma around mental health is to continue to educate people who do not suffer, talk more freely about mental health and quite frankly continue to do shows like Shining Light on Shadows that gives people an open and safe space to dig into the many levels of the challenges around having mental health concerns.

Title Card for Show. Text and headshots of the co-hosts and guest. Headline: "Shining Light on Shadows: A Candid Conversation About Mental Health" Copy: "Ep. 7 Kate Easton Parenting a Child with Mental Health Challenges Thurs., May 9 7pm ET / 6pm CT / 4pm PT"


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