I have just finished reading an article about how, throughout time, societies have focused their attentions on specific groups or individuals when blame is required. This form of negative focus is known as ‘scapegoating’.
By definition, the scapegoat is a person or people “made to bear the blame for others.” The scapegoated individual or group is seen as a threat to the successful functioning of the group as a whole and therefore must be rejected. As far as the group is concerned, the scapegoat is the sacrifice needed to ensure survival.
Trains of thought
Usually when I have a moment of inspiration I often sit and digest what it is I am considering. I consider that Scapegoating for me has a number of homes in which it resides.
Firstly, it sits very comfortably within an abusive relationship. Secondly, having depression can have a negative effect upon some professions and finally, society uses it to focus its failings.
Scapegoating has led to violence against and the degradation of groups of people throughout history. It has been witnessed by genocide in the Sudan, “ethnic cleansing” in Croatia, the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, apartheid in South Africa, lynchings in the American South, honour killings of women in the Middle East and South-east Asia. It has often been run by a stronger section of society enforcing its power over a weakened group.
Scapegoating in a relationship
This is, and can be mirrored within the family home. From my own experience abuse was developed over time without objection from me in the beginning. Power was handed to my partner by my apathy to rejecting it from the outset. I became the centre of attention when blame for something needed to be applied. For example, I would be blamed for incidental things such as running out of milk. Or I would be blamed for things I had no input over, like comments from her ex husband or events at her work.
Ultimately, she could justify physical and sexual abuse on to me when it was I that objected to such behaviours. It became my fault for her actions, therefore, becoming her unreasonable justification for such violent acts.
Scapegoating at work
I work within the health service. I’m a paramedic to be precise. The job does have moments when it can be difficult but equally it has its ‘quiet’ moments.
During my time as a paramedic I came across at least three members of staff who were taken ‘off the road’ due to illness – to be specific, mental illness. Although it was justified as a chance to recover, it still sent a shiver down my spine. I considered that I would be seen as not good enough to do the job if I declared my illness.
During my practice, I had never been disciplined for failing professional standards. I had a list of commendations from members of the public for ‘jobs’ I had done. Yet, I knew that if I had informed my superiors of my condition I would be seen instantly as unsuitable. In effect I would have been scapegoated due to my illness as being inferior to what my job required.
I feel I would have been judged at work for having an illness. Would I suddenly be unfit for practice for having depression and/or PTSD? I would have been ashamed to step into the staff room with the label of ‘depressive’ hanging over me for everyone to see. Mental illness is still seen as a weakness of which I would have been ashamed to admit. Even now very few people of whom I worked with know that I have depression. How could I have gone from being a good member of staff one moment to being one of questionable abilities? My illness made me a scapegoat of peoples lack of understanding with regards to my abilities.
Nothing changed in my abilities or character based on a disclosure. It makes no sense to do so.
I was being judged for living in an abusive relationship and not getting out earlier. Not being able to leave was due to a range of circumstances out of my control. It didn’t make me a failure. The lack of support ensured the continuation of my victim status. There are no male refuges within any proximity to where I was from and worked. Furthermore, scapegoating would be further enforced, as a male victim within an abusive relationship is still a social embarrassment. I would be a target to ignorance from outside quarters, but I was also a scapegoat within my own home. She could justify her abuse because she failed to recognise her own failings and so I took the blame.
Society still views people with mental illness as being emotional or crazy. They either don’t take us seriously or they fear/pity us.
The media also does a discredit to mental health patients. Time and again when news stories hit the headlines about some murderer they always find a link with some form of mental illness. Is it not, therefore, labelling every mentally ill person as a potential murderer? Or are they scapegoating a section of society for societies failings? It is of courses easier to blame a section of society that are unable to defend themselves than face their own failures and shortcomings.
Mental health is everyone’s problem
People should not be discriminated against for mental illness. It is illegal to discriminate based on gender or colour yet, I have seen and witnessed discrimination based on depression. An illness of which is difficult to treat because people still see it as a stigma (I did for many years) and so the condition continues.
It is easier to scapegoat these people rather than address their own failures. This is especially so within a relationship, the workplace and society as a whole.
People can’t control what they are born with and shouldn’t be ignored or made fun of because of it. People should not be defined by their mental status. Some of the nicest, intelligent and strongest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting have depression. However, people born with a mental illness such as depression face disbelief instead of support. Without help and support they may resort to self-harm, ridicule or even suicide.