Don't Be AshamedBMJ 1999; 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7224.1584 (Published 11 December 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1584
- Gavin Yamey, editorial registrar
Embarrassing Illnesses, Channel 4, Tuesdays at 8 30 pm, until 21 December
A middle aged woman turns to the camera and lists the names she has been called: scabby, leper, unclean. She has been spat at in the street. Her crime? She has psoriasis. The stigmatising effect of disease is being explored in the television series Embarrassing Illnesses. This comprises six 30 minute programmes—“Smells,” “Bowels,” “Skin,” “Periods,” “Sexual Health,” and “Testicular Cancer”—each focusing on a handful of patients who are slowly adapting to the lasting consequences of being different.
Maxine Whitton has had vitiligo for over 30 years. She has watched powerlessly as patches of her black skin have turned white. Explaining how she cannot leave her house without cosmetic camouflage, she says: “The camouflage is a mixed blessing. It gives you confidence but it is also a thing to hide behind, so you don't have to face your problems.” Strangers feel uncomfortable with the way she looks. We see her visiting a cognitive behavioural therapist, who is helping Maxine to cope with the adverse comments made by …