From my understanding buddhism is one of the worlds religions that is accepting of everyone. It is inclusive of all races, backgrounds, economic statuses. It does not overtly exclude those who struggle with life challenges and it does not impose a specific lifestyle that excludes modern science or medicine.
So I am saddened that just a few weeks ago, here in Canada, a devout buddhist teacher, author, and community leader, who had a loving family, supportive community and access to modern medicine, still feared the stigma attached to his mental health diagnosis, particularly when he was struggling to manage the symptoms. Micheal Stone passed away July 16th in the hospital after an apparent overdose.
For people who have never experienced this kind of stigma personally, it is almost impossible to understand it. It is like asking someone who is completely color blind to see the color purple. They can really want to and try as much as possible, but it is really just a guess.
So the next time someone shares something about their mental health, a passing thought or a deeply personal revelation, please pause and thank them for being brave. Don’t say you understand, you likely don’t, and that’s ok. Thank them for trusting you and honour that relationship in whatever way you are able. Because the stigma is real, in all walks of life. Mental health conditions don’t discriminate based on gender, or religion or socioeconomic status. They can affect anyone, at anytime. And although we now have a huge array of services, medications and treatments available, they are not always available at the right time or place for everyone.
To learn more about the passing of Michael Stone: