A few months ago an old friend of mine was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. She is, obviously, now at the beginning of a long journey to fight multiple sclerosis and I’m happy to say that she seems to be doing well at this stage.
But one thing interested me enormously. She has decided not to tell her family about her multiple sclerosis. Clearly it is her choice and she has some very good reasons not to do so.
That being said it has led me on a train of thought about the subject of openness about medical conditions to family, friends and employers.
For full disclosure I should explain that I am the parent of a son with classic autism. It took at least two years from diagnosis for me to be happy (if that is the right word) about being open about his autism to anyone but very close friends and family. Now I’m very used to explaining his diagnosis in new situations to explain his behavioural challenges. That being said this did take me a long time to get used to. So I understand why people keep quiet about it.
For example we ran a poll a few months ago asking if people felt that they had been discriminated at work because of their medical condition. As of writing just over 70% of respondents believed they had been discriminated against. You can see the results of the poll here http://patienttalk.org/?p=852.
But and there is a but here. If we are silent about our and our loved ones medical conditions does that not mean we are allowing the stigma of illness both mental and physical to remain?
So really I’m opening up the floor to you.
It would be really great if you could share your thoughts on health and stigma?
a) Have you been diagnosed with a chronic condition?
b) Do you feel there is a stigma attached to that condition and if so why does it occur?
c) Are you open about that medical condition to family, friends and workmates?
d) How is it best to fight any stigmas and discrimination which may go hand in hand with health issues?
Please feel free to share your thoughts and view on the matter. Feel free to use the comments box below to answers the above questions or add any of your own.