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Breaking the Stigma

By Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.

While most of us see ourselves as kind, and even compassionate, many people have an almost basic instinct to stigmatize the weaker members of society: the poor; the less intelligent; the mentally ill; the disabled; and those with a chronic disease.  There are varying degrees of this stigmatization, but it seems to be prevalent enough in our society that many people who have something that makes them appear weaker are marginalized and viewed with less respect.

I have known people who have received a cancer diagnosis and report that some of their friends – and even family members – distanced themselves after they learned of the diagnosis.  I myself recently experienced the rejection of a close friend of many years who quit meeting me for our monthly lunches, making excuses over the past 16 months since I was diagnosed with severe kidney disease.  Many people have similar examples of being rejected, usually without a direct explanation, after receiving a diagnosis of a serious disease. 

There are no diseases more likely to trigger rejection than two very prevalent diseases here in the Coachella Valley: AIDS and substance use disorder (addiction).  Fortunately, there is a culture here that can be very accepting of people who are considered “different”. However, that does not lessen the impact of being rejected by those you cared about and who seemed to care about you prior to the diagnosis.

That is why it is so significant that organizations such as Michael’s House are teaming together to sponsor a movement to help break the stigma of diseases such as addiction, depression, PTSD, and other disorders.  Through events such as the Break the Stigma Golf Tournament on September 16, 2016, Michael’s House is bringing together organizations from across the Coachella Valley to help raise awareness and to educate people about these diseases and the stigma that follows.

Through a better understanding of the disorders that plague so many people, we can learn that there is absolutely no reason to feel any lack of respect for people with disorders; in fact, quite the opposite. We all need what these people have to offer our culture.  I personally find people who have to overcome the challenge of a disease to be much more interesting, as they often see life from deeper perspectives than others.  They are by far the most interesting and understanding people I know.

The 3rd Annual Break the Stigma Golf Tournament will once again benefit SafeHouse of the Desert for youth in crisis. Taking place September 16 at Escena Golf Course in Palm Springs, the event is open to all – even those of us who don’t know a golf club from a baseball bat. I go for the food, the archery, the interesting people I will meet and to support a great cause – breaking the stigma. Please join us!

Michael’s House invites you to a fun round of golf at Escena Golf Course to benefit the SafeHouse of the Desert on September 16.  The Cost is $75 per person or $300 for a foursome and includes golf and lunch. For more information, contact (760) 464.2138.

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