What is Stigma?
When an individual appears to differ from us, we may view him or her in a negative, stereotyped way. People who have personalities or characteristics that society values negatively are said to be stigmatized.
Stigma is a reality for people with a mental illness, and how society judges them is one of their most significant barriers to cope and live their life. We feel uncomfortable about mental illness, perhaps due to not fully understanding this disorder. It’s unlikely to see stigma present with other invisible illnesses such as heart disease or cancer.
Because of inaccuracies and misunderstandings, people have assumed that an individual with a mental illness is lazy, has a weak character or is inevitably dangerous. Mental illness is an invisible illness, not seen or heard.
Most people are unaware that someone is struggling with mental illness, such as depression, unless they have shared their disease with you. The majority of the public is unsuspecting of how many mentally ill folks they know and encounter every day. One in five people will experience a mental illness in his or her lifetime, affecting people of all ages, in all varieties of occupations, and at all educational levels.
Why Does Stigma Surround Mental Illness?
We all have a preconceived idea of what someone with a mental illness is like; however, some of us have distorted views and interpretations through firmly held social beliefs. Words often used in casual terms such as “nuts,” “lunatic,” or “crazy,” along with off-the-cuff jokes about the mentally ill. These representations and the habit of discriminatory language distort the public’s view and reinforce inaccuracies about mental illness.
The media, as a reflection of society, has significantly done an excellent job of sustaining an inaccurate illustration of mental illness. Television or movie characters who are aggressive, dangerous, and unpredictable can have their behavior attributed to this disease.
Mental illness also hasn’t received the sensitive or empathic media coverage, as with other disorders. Stereotypes encompass us; popular movies talk about criminals who are “psychos” and news coverage of mental illness relating only to violence.
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 become physically ill, you would head to your doctor or hospital. Once you recovered, you expect to get on with life as usual. Life, however, does not always fall back into place for those diagnosed with a mental illness. Everyone has the right to participate in his or her community fully, but individuals struggling to overcome a mental illness can face an endless series of rejections and exclusions.
Because of stigma, the typical reaction encountered by someone with a mental illness (and his or her family members) is fear and rejection. We have denied some adequate housing, loans, health insurance, and jobs because of their history of mental illness.
Due to the stigma associated with this illness, many people find they have lost their self-esteem, self-confidence, having problems keeping friends, or establishing new friendships. The stigma accompanying this illness is so pervasive that people who suspect that they may be mentally ill are reluctant to seek help fear what others may think. Spouses may be unwilling 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 defuse and battle some stigmas via education and facts; however, people will forever judge others because of ignorance regardless of how much information we provide. Stigma may never be completely ‘erased.’
Questions can be directed to your Mental Health Association.
Information source for this article: MentalHealthWorks.ca
(edited and reposted) March 2020