Stigma can lead to a lack of support or empathy for people with a mental illness, leaving people embarrassed, misunderstood and/or feeling alone. It can result in symptoms being ignored, lead to poor recovery and a lower quality of life due to isolation.
Stigma surrounds mental illness even in contemporary society. Research has aimed to reduce this. World Health Organisation (WHO; 2012) have stated that such stigma is a “hidden human rights emergency”.
According to NAMI, The National Alliance of Mental Illness 1 in 5 adults experience a mental health condition yearly. 1 in 20 people live with a serious mental illness like, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Not only does the person who is directly experiencing a mental illness suffer, but the family, and friends are also highly affected. NAMI states that 50% of mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% of mental illnesses develop by age 24. Each year, 1 in 5 children from the ages 13-18 experiences a mental illness reported by NAMI. That’s a large amount of our young generation. Three out of four people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma, a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart according to the
The aforementioned treatments of mental illness influence both public and self-stigma of mental illness today. David Vogel, Nathaniel Wade, and Shawn Haake, from Iowa State University, define public stigma as “the perception held by a group or society that an individual is socially unacceptable and often leads to negative reactions toward them. The public stigma associated with seeking mental health services, therefore, is the perception that a person who seeks psychological treatment is undesirable or socially unacceptable” (325). Psychologist Marty Manosevitz attributes the stigma of mental illness to the immoral ways that the mentally ill were once treated. He states, “The moment a mark of something different was found in person they were shoved into institutions and kept from the outside world. There was no understanding that mental illness could be cured, it was considered permanent.”
To many a stigma is a disgraceful flaw, that of a negative presence. In mental health this stigma is overwhelming. Approximately 57.7 million Americans experience a mental health disorder in any given year. (National Alliance on Mental Illness) People in dire need of help are not seeking it. Mental illnesses are going undiagnosed. The mental health stigma is having a negative impact on the proper diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses.
“Stigma and Social Identity,” is one of the chapters from a book called “Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity” written by Erving Goffman that discuss in depth about stigma. Firstly, in this chapter, Goffman discuss about the origins of the word ‘stigma’ from the Greeks and Christian perspective that tend to define stigma as bodily evidence of unusualness. Nowadays, the word stigma is use to label disgrace rather than the bodily evidence of it. There are three types of stigmas; physical defects, blemishes of individual character and tribal stigmata of race, color and religion. All of these stigmas can deteriorate the claims of ‘normality’.
While stigma may not necessarily be a cause of a person’s mental disorder, it can certainly contribute to the complication and perpetuation of their illness. The effect of stigma goes well beyond just the patient and provides a commentary on society’s overall level of intolerance of those who are considered different from the majority. By recognizing the level of stigma that exists, perhaps we can alter that behavior and gravitate towards a more productive attitude towards mental illness.
While the treatment methodology for mental illness has improved over the last few decades, the negative stigma surrounding those who seek care is still a major roadblock. (Corrigan, 2004) To better understand the term stigma, the definition must first be examined. According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary Stigma is defined as “a set of negative often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something; a mark of shame or discredit.” (Stigma, 2015). These views are often
The mentally ill face a multitude of challenges. One of those challenges is the stigmatization they face. Stigmatization is social rejection; those stigmatized are rejected by people because of the label they carry or that their behaviors clearly indicate that they belong to a certain labeled group. Stigmatization of the mentally ill is caused by the public’s belief in myths about the dangerousness of the mentally ill and exposing those myths can reduce stigmatization.
Despite the recent advancements in education and medical care, mental illness continues to thrive in modern society, destroying the lives of an estimated 60 million individual worldwide, which is precisely what Lexi Lyon discusses in Sustaining the Stigma, where she implores that healthy individuals around the world recognize the real and detrimental affects that mental health has. Unlike other health diagnoses, mental illnesses are not openly discussed nor does the majority of society accept it as a real health issue. Lyon explains that the culmination of false stereotypes, prejudice, and a lack of understanding have led to the perpetuation of ill-willed treatment toward those who suffer from illnesses that affect an individual’s way of thinking,
It is estimated that 43.5 million Americans, adults 18 or older, live with mental illness. This number represents 18.1% of all U.S. adults (National Institute of Mental Health, 2014). Stigma toward those who are seen as different have existed for as long as civilization itself, with the stigma for mental illness being one of the most prominent and long lasting that society has had to face throughout its ages (Arboleda-Florez & Stuart, 2012). Increased understanding and awareness for those individuals suffering from mental illness is necessary for us to overcome the impacts stigma has on our society.
I now need to backtrack and define stigma. According to the book, the word stigma originates from the Greeks, who valued visual aids (Goffman, 1963, p. 1). They used stigma to stand for “bodily signs designed to expose something unusual and bad about the moral status of the signifier” (Goffman, 1963, p. 1). These signs that they referred to were those that were forced upon a person to designate their spot as the scum of society (Goffman, 1963, p. 1). These scum of society were cut or burn so that their status would be known to all that they encountered (Goffman, 1963, p. 1). With time, the word stigma also became attached to the physical marks that extremely holy Christians might experience (Goffman, 1963, p. 1). Now days we mainly use stigma to refer to the feeling of disgrace that is placed on an individual rather than the actual bodily signs (Goffman, 1963, pp.
There are many stigmas, or misconceptions and misperceptions in our society which need to be shattered. I believe that one of the worse possible effects of stigma is that it causes those affected by psychological disorders, or mental illness, to crawl more deeply into themselves because it provokes a sense of shame. Stigma thrusts those suffering with mental illness into a sense of isolation, social exclusion, and discrimination. “Stigma can lead to discrimination … It may be obvious or direct … Or it may be unintentional or subtle…” (Staff). Stigma is often as big as the illness itself and I confess to having been a perpetuator of this dreaded thing, although not consciously aware and without the intent of furthering the harm of someone.
Individuals with serious mental illness are doubly affected by their disease; not only do they experience the often debilitating symptoms of their condition, but they must also endure mundane mental health stigmas and prejudices. Stigmatized attitudes are perceived to be one of the greatest impediments to living a complete and fulfilling life. Stigma has been defined as a combination of three related problems: ignorance, prejudice and discrimination (Rose, Thornicroft, Pinfold, & Kassam, 2007). Ignorance implies a lack of knowledge, prejudice entails negative attitudes, and discrimination involves exclusionary actions against people deemed to be different. Two forms of stigma are commonly distinguished in literature. Public stigma describes the attitudes of society towards people with mental illness, while self-stigma results from the internalization of prejudice by people who suffer from mental health conditions (Corrigan, Powell, & Rüsch, 2012). The World Health Organization announced that stigma was the most crucial obstacle to overcome for a community to functioning effectively and efficiently (Ontario Hospital Association, 2013).