STIGMA – And Mental Illness

What is stigma?

When someone appears to be different than us, we may view him or her in a negative stereotyped manner.  People who have identities that society values negatively are said to be stigmatized.

Stigma is a reality for people with a mental illness, and they report that how others judge them is one of their greatest barriers to a complete and satisfying life.  Society feels uncomfortable about mental illness. It is not seen like other illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

Due to inaccuracies and misunderstandings, people have been led to believe that an individual with a mental illness has a weak character or is inevitably dangerous.  Mental illness can be called the invisible illness.  Often, the only way to know whether someone has been diagnosed with a mental illness is if they tell you.  The majority of the public is unaware of how many mentally ill people they know and encounter every day.  One in five people will experience a mental illness at some point in his or her lifetime and mental illness affects people of all ages, in all kinds of jobs and at all educational levels.

Why does stigma surround mental illness?

We all have an idea of what someone with a mental illness is like, but most of our views and interpretations have been distorted through strongly held social beliefs.  The media, as a reflection of society, has done much to sustain a distorted view of mental illness.  Television or movie characters who are aggressive, dangerous and unpredictable can have their behavior attributed to a mental illness.  Mental illness also has not received the sensitive media coverage that other illnesses have been given.  We are surrounded by stereotypes, popular movies talk about killers who are “psychos” and news coverage of mental illness only when it related to violence.  We also often hear the causal use of terms like “lunatic” or “crazy,” along with jokes about the mentally ill.   These representations and the use of discriminatory language distort the public’s view and reinforce inaccuracies about mental illness.

Many people living with mental illness say the stigma they face is often worse than the illness itself 

What are the effects of stigma?

If you became physically ill, you would go to a doctor.  Once you got better you would expect to get owith life as usual. Life, however, does not always fit back into place for people diagnosed with a mental illness.  Everyone has the right to fully participate in his or her community, but individuals struggling to overcome a mental illness can find themselves facing a constant series of rejections and exclusions.

Due to stigma, the typical reaction encountered by someone with a mental illness (and his or her family members) is fear and rejection.  Some have been denied adequate housing, loans, health insurance and jobs due to their history of mental illness.  Due to the stigma associated with the illness, many people have found that they lose their self-esteem and have difficulty making friends.  The stigma attached to mental illness is so pervasive that people who suspect that they might be mentally ill are unwilling to seek help for fear of what others may think.  Spouses may be reluctant to define their partners as mentally ill, while families may delay seeking help for their child because of their fears and shame.

How do we erase stigma?

We can battle stigma when we have facts.  We all have times when we feel depressed, get unreasonably angry or over-excited.  We even have periods when we think that everything and everybody is out to get us and that we can’t cope. For someone with a mental illness these feelings become enveloping and overwhelming.   There is no particular way to develop a mental illness.  For some people, it occurs due to genetic factors in their family. Other causes may relate to environment stressors such as experiences or severe child abuse, war, torture, poverty, loss, isolation, neglect or abandonment.  Mental illnesses can also occur in combination with substance abuse.

Any questions can be directed to your Mental Health Association.

Information source for this article:  MentalHealthWorks.ca

 

132 thoughts on “STIGMA – And Mental Illness

    • cherished79 says:

      So true, and it’s also sad that it takes a celebrity to come forward with a story about their experiences with mental illness to bring awareness to stigma and mental illness. Thanks for leaving a comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. millflin says:

    Love your blog! This article is very well written. I’ve recently started a blog myself, but I’m still working on getting it off the ground. Anyway, thank you for writing this, it really needed to be said.

    By the way, do you have any advice on how to build a reader base for my blog? I don’t want to be that guy but I’ve been getting nowhere with it so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cherished79 says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Getting followers isn’t that easy when starting out, however, one way is if you go into your ‘reader’ you will see ‘search’, type in a subject that is of interest to you on your blog. Eg. for me it’s ‘depression’. Most bloggers who are posting about ‘depression’ will come up along with their posts. You can choose which posts to read and if interested in their blog you can follow them, and chances are they will follow you. You can do that for any topic. Also, visit other blogs, comment frequently, and you’ll find others will come to your blog also. Hope this helped. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. livinginsane1 says:

    I’ve started my own personal blog going through OCD myself since I can’t talk to anyone about it besides my therapist xd, If you guys would like to check it out that would be great livinginsaneblog.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mindelate says:

    How beautifully written about something so widespread yet suppressed. I appreciate this as it’s so very important to stress the fact that any mental disorder does not define a person, nor should anyone suffering from it feel ashamed. Thank you for this post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alex Sarll says:

    Hi, great post. Just a quick note- I hit 100 followers today, and one of those was you, so I just wanted to say a massive THANK YOU for your support..! I’m still writing my book, and trying to increase my web presence, so any and all thoughts and advice will be much appreciated. Thank you again, and hope to hear more of you in the future..! 🙂

    Like

    • cherished79 says:

      Fantastic! Are you on twitter cuz that’s when my stats went up. On twitter I gained followers. Go to my twitter account @livinginstigma then go to my ‘followers’ or ‘followed’ when you set your Twitter account up, and that way you will be able to gain followers on Twitter to start with. Also, even before you set up a twitter acct, you can still go to my Twitter account, many users have wordpress blogs that you may follow. I’m glad I was included in the 100!!! Yippee! Keep writing and blogging. Congrats. Big Hugs, Deb

      Liked by 1 person

  5. poetspancakesandpromises says:

    You are NOT your mental disorder 

    You are not your mental disorder. You are not your inability to read and write. You are not the social anxiety that leaves you feeling isolated and a product of alienation in a world where couples is the new norm. You are not the depression that cripples you and leaves you crying and thinking obsessively of self harm at three in the morning on the bathroom floor. You are not the voices you hear telling you to destroy. You are not the anger , the betrayal, the bitterness and the drowning. You are not a replay button of all the horrifying experiences and painful memories you’ve ever had. You are not your molest- you are instead a survivor of it.You are a Beautiful warm sunshine in a world full of dark dreary gloomy days. You are a rainbow , a paradox ,a haiku ,the moonlight shining on a still lake. You are the books you read , the music you listen , the love you give and deserve , the movies you watch . You are the things you eat, the air you breathe and the places you travel to. You are the photos you take and the poems you write. You are the smile you bring on other people’s faces, the masterpieces you create 

    So repeat after me and believe me when I say

    YOU. ARE. NOT. YOUR. MENTAL. DISORDER

    Like

    • cherished79 says:

      We just have to keep educating, and we’re doing that, but you have to agree we’ve come a long way from a decade ago. I know for me while working in 2005 and struggling with depression, I didn’t breathe a word of my depression at work due to repercussions, however, I may feel more at ease now. Social media helps, but at times does more harm than good. Good luck with your blog, and thanks for commenting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • tala1809 says:

        I agree, I’ve adopted an attitude of not staying quiet about my health conditions. We’re afraid of what we don’t understand, as humans, education is key! Thank you, it means a lot!

        Like

        • cherished79 says:

          You’re welcome. I also don’t hide my illness anymore with people as I’ve now accepted that it isn’t a character flaw, nor my fault, I’m not lazy and I’m not craving attention! So there!! I’ve been absent for this blog, gotta get back to it, been writing children’s books and blog on another platform for now. Take care 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  6. holliannea says:

    I just wanted to say that your article really tries to destroy the stigma..and really works! I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and I enjoyed your post because you’re so real and open about mental illness, and you’re right, some people see the stigma so much that they don’t get help. My blog is breathinglifewithocd.com here on wordpress.. I hope you’ll look at it and let me know what you think. I’d love to have this support system!

    Like

  7. warriorprincesscait says:

    Great article!!! I am a mental health advocate myself, and I believe we fully need to destigmatize it. Mosey over to my blog if you are so inclined (warriorprincesscait.com) and I have a ton of articles about mental health. I wish there was so stigma. I am one of those people you talk about that can pass as a neurotypical person despite my mental illness BECAUSE of medication.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cherished79 says:

      You caught me at the right time as I am rarely visiting my blog these days with other things going on. Thanks for you words of kindness. I checked out your lovely blog and impressed. Yes stigma is still out there, and continues to be due to social media which can persuade people’s views. I just came across a fantastic way to improve stats! I have another blogging platform that I’ve been using because I’m able to post articles from this blog and other topics: https://niume.com/pages/profile/?userID=25982 Anyways, on Thursday I signed up with Flipboard and my stats went crazy! 5000 in 2 1/2 days! If you are interested let me know.

      Like

  8. Alex Sarll says:

    Great article, really well written and informative. It is so sad how people judge, something which you can only understand if you’ve been through yourself.. “Due to the stigma associated with the illness, many people have found that they lose their self-esteem”- I’m currently writing a self help book, on how to recover- and this is its main message! Or my main message is that you SHOULDN’T lose your self esteem, because all MI has made you as super strong and a fighter!! Thanks a lot for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. alicexomalley says:

    You’re right – stigma is awful. Living with several mental illnesses myself, I live in constant fear of telling anyone what I’m facing because I worry about the reactions I may receive. I cope with a variety of mental illnesses, and I am always afraid that I will be judged for them, so even my family doesn’t know all of what I face. It’s tough to live with that fear.

    Like

  10. allihurley says:

    The problem is that Mental Illness stigmas are due to one giant catch-22.
    Person has mental illness.
    Person with mental illness is afraid to seek treatment due to stigma.
    Mental illness intensifies, leading to frustration and feelings of hopelessness.
    Untreated mental illness turns into suicidal tendencies, homicidal tendencies, violence, or rage on large scale.
    Stigma intensifies.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC says:

    GREAT article. I love Mental Health Awareness Month because there are so many people talking about the crying need to stop stigma. Hope everybody reads Obama’s inspiring MHA Month Proclamation – and will hop around the web supporting as many MHA Month posts as they are able. (Comments & likes help posts get seen – and posts like this one are SO important)

    FYI: I linked this post as Related Content in my 2016 MHA Month post: The importance of a Diagnosis – Name it to Tame it. I hope you’ll have some time to check it out.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Lois Konzelman, MSN, RN says:

    I am so glad to have found this. I am working on my doctoral dissertation and it is about stigma and mental illness and the courtesy stigma of desiring to work as a mental health nurse. It’s very true that people with mental illness often do not get treatment because of the stigma. This stigma spills over to medical illness because people in the medical profession assume that physical illnesses are “all in your head.” Media plays a huge part as well. Thanks for this blog!

    Like

    • sandracharrondotcom says:

      As an RN, I’m shocked by the stigma attached to mental illness. When I hear my colleagues using terms such as “crazy” and “nutjob” knowing I suffer from bipolar II disorder, I realize we still have so very far to go.

      Like

      • cherished79 says:

        We do, and I hate name calling also. It’s what society is used to calling people with mental illness, seems odd that we don’t have names for people with heart disease or cancer? Stigma, what a shame. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

        Like

  13. sandracharrondotcom says:

    As some who seeks to promote mental health awareness in order to help destigmatize it, I am thrilled beyond words to have found your blog. Here’s to hoping you much luck in your endeavor and I will be your avid reader.

    Like

    • cherished79 says:

      It’s great that we connected, making people aware and less afraid of mental illness/mentally ill is surely our goal. I approached my blog to include different topics instead of just focussing on one type to educate on research and news published, as well as my personal experiences.
      Thanks for your kind words and stopping by to comment. Deb 🙂

      Like

    • cherished79 says:

      I have never heard of this, will look into more and include as a future post. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention. I love when readers let me know what’s out there and I can learn something new and pass on to others. 🙂

      Like

  14. Kalpanaa says:

    It’s wonderful that you are writing about mental illness and increasing the awareness around a subject that has typically been treated with derision and rough humour. Glad to have stopped by. Hopping over from the cherished blogfest.

    Like

    • cherished79 says:

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. We still have to keep getting the word out about mental illness stigma, although we’ve come a long way, we’ve still have a long ways to go. 🙂

      Like

  15. agmoye says:

    It is a fact that mentally ill lead normal lives most of the time. They try to hide the fact but it suddenly can become apparent to those around them which most try to overlook because of the stigma.

    Like

  16. Damyanti says:

    On a different note, am stopping by to welcome you to the Cherished Blogfest. Thankyou for joining. Please put up the Blogfest badge on the sidebar/bottom (with a link to one of the announcement posts from the co-hosts), so your audience is familiar with the blogfest and considers joining! Need any help, email me at atozstories at gmail dot com.

    Like

  17. Damyanti says:

    I think stigma comes from lack of knowledge, which comes from lack of discussion, which in turn comes from stigma– it becomes a vicious cycle. Thanks for starting a virtuous cycle here– the more we discuss mental illness, the more people would understand it, and the less the stigma.

    Like

  18. MsNaUnd says:

    With the time, I came to realise that when I start to endorse the stigma myself, then it is a clear sign of the onset of yet another depression. I blame myself for being unable to sleep, then for sleeping too long, for my lack of energy, for everything linked to my mental condition. I tell myself I am a lazy bitch, a good – to -nothing, a 100 % failure, etc. After a few days, it usually strikes me : why are you so harsh on yourself, why are you accepting the stigma, why are you so sure everyone else is viewing you through the stigma lens ? Is it not difficult enough to go through this pain and anguish without adding that extra-layer of self-blame ? Sometimes stigma affects me even when I think it doesn’t ! Does this happen to you ?

    Like

    • cherished79 says:

      I’ll reply to both of your comments:
      For me I have a different view of depression, as mine has been there throughout my teenage/adulthood, progressing and ultimately throwing me into a “black hole” in the ’90’s due to therapy, to peel back the layers in therapy for the sexual abuse that happened to me when I was six. It’s not so much the rapes, it’s the way my parents handled it (I had to apologize to the rapist because they didn’t believe me), therefore, would I have headed into a mucky life of depression had this not happened, maybe yes biologically or maybe not, who can say.

      Mental illness is an illness, would you be saying this to yourself that you are lazy if you had cancer – I hope not, or if you had heart disease? This where the stigma comes in, this is where the shame comes into play, and this is why I generally keep my trap shut. My blog thank goodness is my way of expressing my thoughts and feelings, with no one judging me.

      You brought up some really good issues and I wish more people would bring their opinions and thoughts to my blog, Thanks for taking the time to comment and feel free to comment anytime, I’d love it. Deb

      Like

  19. Barbara Franken says:

    We have come a long way with mental illness since I was young and was told to stay away from the mad and crazy people locked up in the hospitals… As I have opened my eyes to life growing up I understand that until a person allows them self to ‘expand beyond their mind’ or ‘open to a bigger perspective’ rather than focusing on the ‘me’, the identity… Our mind will become the boss and create even worse insanity in the world. Each one of us through our own past experience of abuse in all the different ways can come to a knowingness that we are more than our human body, emotion and mind… We are divineness itself, but over time forgotten we are not separate from life outside of ourself. When we connect to ‘what seems as nothingness and silence’ we can reconnect to all of ourself and allow our human mind to find peace… Rather than conflict in our limited human life… We are multidimensional and it is time for each one of us to open and expand our awareness into ALL. It’s all a matter of choice, do we want to be amazing or miserable… I’m going to enjoy seeing your journey expand to amazing ness… Barbara

    Like

  20. bpdtransformation says:

    I hate stigma against people with mental illness too. However, I might be better if “mental illness” were renamed “emotional problems” or “reaction to traumatic life events”, cumbersome as those terms are. A true mental “illness” would be purely physical brain diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s, since they are purely caused by physical internal stimuli.

    However, disorders like Borderline Personality, depression, schizophrenia, PTSD, etc. are not mostly caused by genetics, biology, and internal physical processes, although these may contribute to vulnerability toward developing such problems. Rather, these conditions are caused primarily by trauma, difficult life events, abuse, neglect, poor parenting etc. It is ironic that people see it as “blame reducing” and “de-stigmatizing” to medicalize these disorders, when in fact an unfortunate effect of such medicalization is to create the belief in the sufferer that they have an innate, hopeless, life-long biological condition, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I realize this post may be controversial. My area of main interest is Borderline PD, and what I’ve written here is certainly true about BPD from my experience having borderline symptoms. My viewpoint does not seek to stigmatize sufferers (or their parents), but rather to give their experience meaning and historical and social context. I write a lot more about that regarding BPD on my blog. I’m equally against stigmatization of emotional and mental suffering, just come at it from a different angle.

    Like

    • cherished79 says:

      Thanks for commenting, and I of course agree with the stigma. Views have changed for the positive though, as I can see a slight difference in people’s views since beginning this blog in 2007, but we still have a long way to go to educate. I took a peek at your blog as I’ve only done a bit of research on BPD, as I understand some of this disorder which was written, I just found the posts a bit long. That is not a criticism, as this is your blog and not to impress others. IMO.

      Like

      • bpdtransformation says:

        They are very long! I know that not everyone will react very well to that, given the short format and brief sound-bytes of much of today’s electronic communication. But I feel there is still a place for long-form essays and in-depth examination of issues on the internet. There is a great online magazine, Aeon (aeon (dot) co), that explores issues of philosophy, psychology, culture, and living that has these types of long-form essays. I recommend you to check that out. It has a number of essays on mental illness/emotional problems.

        Like

    • MsNaUnd says:

      If a condition has a biological origin or can be revealed by a brain scan, that doesn’t make it a condition that is life-long, hopeless etc. And though it is true that many people with mental illness have grown up facing major trauma – some have not. I did meet this people in hospital and learn about horrific life stories. But I have not, and I was not the only one. Several people in my family suffer from mental illness, and yet none of us have experienced a traumatic upbringing. In fact, we come from a somewhat privileged background.
      I am not sure that giving it another name, not “mental illness” but “emotional problems” would make matters better. My fear is that it could even increase the stigma. Few people understand that mental illness is not a moral defect, that it requires care and sometimes an hospitalization. Which welfare system would agree to pay for an hospitalization due to an “emotional problem” ?

      Like

      • scottsmess says:

        I totally, absolutely agree. What are we all talking about on here regarding stigma when when some of us question the biology of most such disorders? Isn’t that what we are trying to do in combating stigma – getting people to understand that mental illnesses at their foundation physical-like brain type of disorders like any other physical disease? If we aren’t then why argue to have be treated like we would cancer or diabetes? If we don’t wholeheartedly believe that OCD, depression, or schizophrenia don’t have biological underpinnings then we are back to mortal defects and emotional weakness. When we deny the biological foundations of these disorders – we are contributing to the stigma because the long-held belief by most all of human cultures is to look at mental illness as some kind of personal failing to be feared and misunderstood. The brain doesn’t function perfectly like anything else. It occasionally dysfunctions. There’s nothing to be ashamed of about that. It just is a fact of life. The body wears out and doesn’t work like “it should’ so why is it a stretch to believe the same thing happens in the brain. The idea that we aren’t to blame for mental disorders is taken away when we try to act like there isn’t a biological root cause or contribution. You can find endless stories from people who became depressed without trauma and educating yourself about the fact that you have a biological condition doesn’t doom you to any kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. It leads to understanding – so you stop self-blaming and then can undertake whatever you need to begin to overcome it. If we start calling depression an “emotional problem” we might as well just get out our Freudian psychology and lay on a couch for 30 years chattering about how our parents messed up our toilet training. Uh-uh. It is a disorder – a disease process of mood.

        Like

          • scottsmess says:

            It’s NOT easy to get people to always understand and the part that frustrates me more is sometimes it’s even those of us who have mental illnesses or speak about it who end up furthering the stigma by what we say about it. Not you by any means – but others sometimes end up muddying the water by trying to be too sophisticated. You’re welcome for the comments and I’m glad I made you smile! 😀

            Like

  21. Running Betty says:

    I nominated you for a Liebster award because you write one of my favorite blogs. I admire your courage and the advocacy you are doing to raise awareness about mental health and stigmas that surround mental health issues!

    Like

  22. Dr. Kevin P. Wallace says:

    Excellent article! My best friends have been dealing with all things related to mental illness. It was initially very difficult for me to be open, patient, understanding be supportive. I love and appreciate them so much for all that they are, have accomplished, and do for others. They are so very special people and are outstanding people. Communication is so very important. When I was young, I would separate myself from people that I believed were mentally ill. I missed so much because of my fears regarding this devastating illness. We need to discuss our differences to first make people comfortable with open discussion, offer accurate information and demonstrate our unity in order to help create a more supportive culture. We need to create a culture that embraces our differences. Kevin

    Like

    • cherished79 says:

      You hit the stigma nail right on the head. That’s why we have to endure stares, people who already have their mind made up about us, problems getting jobs or having a job and carrying the secrecy around with us everyday, having bipolar and society thinking we have a criminal mind. Would we have these thoughts with heart disease or cancer…..I think not.

      Like

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