Stop the Stigma

Now Available: A Brief History of Stigma

Book cover: A Brief History of Stigma by Ashley L. Peterson

My new book, A Brief History of Stigma, is now available! It looks at the past and present of mental illness stigma, as well as how to move towards a future without stigma.

It’s available from:

What it covers

  1. Introduction
  1. Part I: The Nature of the Beast
    1. 1) What Is Stigma?
    2. 2) Violence Stereotypes
    3. 3) Stigma Masquerades
    4. 4) Suicide Stigma
    5. 5) Historical Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill
  1. Part II: Stigma in Context
    1. 6) Sociocultural Context
    2. 7) Structural Stigma
    3. 8) Health Care
    4. 9) Health Professionals Experiencing Mental Illness
    5. 10) Law Enforcement & the Justice System
  1. Part III: What Can We Do About It?
    1. 11) Challenges to Address Stigma
    2. 12) How Much Does Language Matter?
    3. 13) Individual Responses to Stigma
    4. 14) Addressing Structural & Health Care Stigma


A few words on language

The chapter that addresses language in relation to stigma was initially quite long and very ranty, but I toned it way down in the editing process. I take the approach, influenced by my academic crush Patrick Corrigan, that word policing accomplishes the opposite of the intended effect. I also believe that person-first language is weird, and it doesn’t match up with how we talk about positive and neutral characteristics.

Throughout the book, I alternate between talking about people with mental illness and mentally ill people for the sake of variety. Both of those are considered stigmatizing by the word police, but some people also think the word stigma is too stigmatizing. I think the whole thing is a distraction from the real issue, which is the socially recognized differences, stereotypes, prejudiced attitudes, and discriminatory behaviours that constitute stigma.

The book page for A Brief History of Stigma book has lots of stigma-fighting resources. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a series of posts elaborating on some of the concepts that are touched on in the book.

Johnzelle Anderson LPC of Panoramic Counseling has reviewed the book on his podcast Perfectly Imperfect. Part 1 is available now, and part 2 will be posted on Thursday. Thanks so much, Johnzelle!

If anyone is interested in reviewing it, let me know and I’ll send you a copy.

62 thoughts on “Now Available: A Brief History of Stigma”

  1. This is awesome, Ashley! I’m curious, what do the “word police” want you to say instead? I think it would get complicated talking about mental illness if you didn’t say “people with mental illness.”

    1. The ultra-picky people say that you shouldn’t talk about mental illness as an aggregate term; you are supposed to say “people with a mental illness” or “people with mental illnesses,” not “people with mental illness”. To that, I say “oh go fuck off”…

  2. Allow me to add my congratulations…do any of your doctors know about your books? (Excuse me Dr. Dip-shit, but I really do know what I’m talking about…)

  3. Yay, congratulations! πŸ™‚ This sounds like it’s going to be a very interesting read and there’s definitely a need for books and resources on stigma, and I have an impression that while a lot of people talk about which words are inappropriate and which should be used instead, few people talk about how unimportant details like that are in the great picture and how crazy and potentially harmful overfocusing on that can be, so this in particular is great that you’re tackling it. I’ve finally figured out how to make Kindle books comfily accessible for myself so I’ll be reading it sometime soon. πŸ™‚

  4. Hi Ashley. I just finished the Introduction before wandering over here and finding your post. This paragraph stood out:

    “Chapter 12 focuses on language and stigma. My stance is strongly influenced by Patrick
    Corrigan’s perspective on word policing, and it runs contrary to the approach that’s used
    by a lot of advocacy organizations. Yet my criticism of language-focused approaches is
    not simply for the sake of being critical; I want us, as advocates, to get this right, meaning
    delivering the most effective message to the right audience. In the end, if we are to bring
    about real attitude and behavioural change, how we feel about that messaging is far less
    important than what those on the receiving end do with it.”

    Of course this makes me want to jump straight up to Chapter Twelve — but I’ve also found your style very compelling & easy to follow. So — this is my little “mini-review.” I’m very happy to see you have produced this important work.

  5. Woooohoooo πŸ₯³

    You never fail to amaze me, Ashley. Congratulations on this, I hope you can feel like the hard work paid off because it’s a massive achievement! I like the sound of the content and the cover art is a great match.

  6. Congrats Ashley πŸ™‚

    I bought my copy the moment l received an Amazon notification informing me that ‘This Author’ had another book available πŸ™‚

    I will get to read it sometime soon πŸ™‚

  7. I am just one chapter in so far. Sorry really slow reader.

    I am very impressed with the section on Gun Violence and how people with mental illness more often reach for a gun to kill themselves rather than to kill others. This is all the while the NRA is saying gun laws need to help prevent crazy people from violent acts instead of saying there are problems with easy gun access for all people.

    That being said, I am all for people with mental health diagnosis being screened for gun purchase or ownership. It’s that one in a million time that sticks with the public — thinking that the mentally ill are the problem. I would like to see difficulty created for people with mental illness to own guns to carry guns or to use guns just because I have been ill before and would not want a gun in my own hand when I was suffering from an acute bout of bipolar illness – either mania or depression.

    There are just too many variables to keep track of – better to avoid that situation at all costs in my view of the world.

    Looking forward to continuing my read – sorry to be so slow.

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