Loneliness Essentialism and Mental Illness Stigmatization

  • Sanae ElmouddenEmail author


The commonality of social network use seems to deepen the idea that loneliness is a silent plague targeting all in the society. Loneliness is defined in many ways but mainly means emotional or social isolation. The premise of this isolation in today’s society comes at the disconnectivity of people that comes at the continuous use of social networks. The irony is that social networks promised social connectivity (Klinenberg New York Times. February 9, 2018) when they came about. But the social media connectivity led to social disconnect and therefore the epidemic of loneliness. The idea of loneliness as infestation is problematic this chapter argues. In many ways if everyone is lonely than the feeling of loneliness for those who live with stigma might be belittled. Furthermore, if everyone is lonely than the essentialism of this emotion can overlook class struggle. Saraceno and Dua (Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 259:109–117, 2009), for example, explain that the insufficient funding leave the loneliest people to dwell in their own loneliness. Finally if everyone is lonely than the link between mental illness and loneliness is superficial, which in many times is the core of loneliness. When loneliness is attached to mental illness, much of the discussion revolves around the most popular discourse of acceptable therapy such as breakup loneliness. Instead I would like to address the loneliness that comes as a result of major mental illness such as schizophrenia. I find Patricia Collins and Sirma Bilge (Intersectionality. Polity Press, 2016) writings on intersectionality appealing. They pay homage to the heterogeneous, disciplinary, and historical meanings of the concept. They give credit Crenshaw (University of Chicago Legal Forum: 139–167, 1989) who coined the term to represent, a concept representing the interactions of biases and axes of oppressions some of us go through. But against the term’s determinism, they urge readers to recognize that the highlights of intersections of social injustices existed prior to the term’s coining. “When it comes to social injustices,” they write, similar to Crenshaw that analysis should avoid focusing on a single axis be it race, gender, etc. Their view on intersectionality is undertaken because they highlight the cultural, disciplinary, structural, and interpersonal as axes of oppression. Critics fault the theory for its all-encompassing to different axes of domination (Gonzalez Quillette, August 24, 2018) that highlights an additive approach to these four axes of oppression (Martin Intersectionality is a Political Football, Here Why it Doesn’t Have to Be, April 17, 2017). I argue however when it comes to mental illness link to loneliness, the way intersectionality is portrayed in Collins and Blinge work is essential for both its contextualization and analysis. This work focuses on the unjust discourses about bodies. The contribution of this chapter therefore is to highlight the unjust discourses at the intersection of mental illness, communication, and stigma to add a voice to intersectionality and communication scholarship on mental illness. The hope of this work is to shift our vocabulary from brainblindness to brain mindfulness.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St John’s UniversityNew YorkUSA

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