Stigmatization of the people with mental illnesses has currently been the key issue facing the mental health department. A vast number of persons suffer from mental illness worldwide. Harsh mental illness stigmatization is present in many cultures and across many nations in the world. The stigmatization creates significant obstacles to the treatment receipt and individual development. Stigma makes individuals poorer and affects the functioning of many families. There are a very high percentage of the people with mental illnesses who avoid seeking any treatment despite the increase in public awareness concerning the issue. They lack access to receptive care because of treatment funds limitation, which is a result of stigma.
Stigma has serious consequences in the life of both the suffering individual and the family. Because of the stigma’s effect on many people and its impact on the individual and family, mental illness is one of the most destructive risks to the positive change and health. Although society is well informed about the nature and causes of the illness, stigmatization is shown to increase rather than decrease. The increase occurs due to the societal association of mental illness with violence and danger. It is, therefore, expedient for the society to understand the stigma related to mental illness, explicate the details of its existence, and minimize its undesirable effects. This paper will discuss the mental disorder stigma, its impacts and perception by the society, and various ways to mitigate the stigma.
The Nature and Impact of Stigma
Stigmatization of the people with mental illnesses is an important phenomenon, since it has continued even as acceptance for other stigmatized individuals has improved. Persons with mental illnesses remain socially unaccepted with insulting language such as “crazy”, “psycho”, or “retard” being used to refer to them. Moreover, the media has been a source of negative depictions of such people. Most media represent those individuals as violent, dangerous, and as people who can easily kill. On television, individuals with mental illness are characterized as being incompetent, unpredictable, untrustworthy, and in many cases, as social outcasts (Weitz, 2013). In children’s media, mental illness is portrayed as unattractive, causing failures in life, and violent. Out of this, children grow up with the stigma and attitude that people with mental illnesses are crazy people who should be avoided at all costs.
Employers view mental illness as the factor with negative effects on productivity. Companies are less likely to hire persons with mental disorders. They assume that such people are dangerous, unpredictable, and may mostly be absent at work. Since many employers and employees have the anticipation that people with mental illnesses have negative responses, these people tend to withdraw their occupation. According to the research, the individuals with mental disorders are underemployed and tend to earn less than their workmates. The employers tend to overlook the person’s capability, qualification, education, and knowledge about the particular task once they are labeled as mentally ill (Lucksted & Drapalski, 2015). However, many people with mental illness and with access to treatment can be very productive. Employers who base their hiring practice on potential future mental illness occurrences practice discrimination. The employers should treat employees with mental disorders like people with physical disability. They have a right to a reasonable accommodation when necessary.
Individuals with mental disorders have difficulties getting employment due to the stigma enacted by employers. The lack of resources and continuous budget cuts make it almost impossible for them to receive comprehensive services. The financial constraints also affect mental health centers. These centers are in most cases understaffed, and those present are usually underpaid. Because of the abovementioned factors, the staff is normally frustrated and fails to deliver services as per their profession (Sidhom, Abdelfattah, Carter, El-Dosoky, & El-Islam, 2014). The mental health professional’s attitude can perpetuate stigma and create barriers to treatment. The same people that are expected to offer help may cause the stigma. Landlords respond to the individuals with mental illness in ways similar to those of employers. They are not likely to lease their apartments to anyone labeled as mentally ill. As a result, many persons having a mental disorder remain homeless.
Individuals suffering from a mental illness are at risk of negative personal effects of stigma. Whereas other stigmas are apparent to observers, mental illness has concealable stigmas that can produce anxiety and stress. In an attempt to avoid discrimination and detection, persons with concealable stigma use much energy to cover any characteristic that might classify them as stigmatized. For instance, the one suffering from major depression might try to hide it from friends and colleagues by withdrawing from them or suppressing his or her suicidal thoughts (Teh, King, Watson, & Liu, 2014). Unfortunately, the suppression makes the individual more preoccupied with the suicidal thoughts and not able to engage with the rest as required. Thus, the attempts to conceal an illness come at the cost of likeability, care, and acquaintance, further aggregating the symptoms he or she is trying to conceal.
Additionally, individuals with mental disorders are susceptible to internalizing the stigma placed on them by society and may overrate the possibility of facing discrimination because of their state. The individuals are even more negative when they think that society is aware of their diagnosis regardless of whether their thoughts are true or false. Even low stigma levels against them are possible to cause weighty emotional and social issues (Corrigan & Rao, 2012). Stigmatization is quite strong, as metal illness along with homelessness and drug abuse are constantly revealed as the most detested attributes one can possess.
Negative impacts of dishonor experienced by the people with mental illness extend to close friends and families. In most cases, their family members experience self-blame, shame, and distrust; many of them must cope with the caregiving burden and embarrassment from their member’s behavior patterns. Therefore, stigma is a major problem preventing individuals from seeking treatment, since they and their family members feel embarrassed about the condition. They also have the fear that friends and neighbors will discriminate them because of the positive diagnosis of mental illness. For those able to seek treatment services, stigma impacts have shown to influence the effectiveness of their treatment.
The people with mental disorder are short of love. Society normally oppresses, eradicates, and dehumanizes people with mental disorders. The result is that these individuals feel lonely and unaccepted. In most cases, they do not live a life of their own, but others tend to make choices on their behalf. They have low efficacy levels, since they think that everyone is judging them. The stigma imposed by society creates a picture that the people having mental disorder are not in a position to tackle everyday life expectations. Their self-esteem is lowered, and they lack the meaning of life (Corrigan & Rao, 2012).
Overall, there are a large number of individuals affected by the stigmatization. Throughout history, the stigma of mental illness has been lush. The situation takes place not only in the Western societies but rather in all cultures. Stigmatization is, perhaps, the central problem facing those attempting to prevent, understand, or treat mental disorders.
Measurement of Stigma
Normally, individuals process information on explicit and implicit levels. Explicit levels refer to controllable and conscious levels while implicit levels refer to subconscious and intuitive levels. Explicit measures often fail to evaluate fundamental biases accurately. As it is socially unacceptable to express predisposition openly, individuals avoid showing such biases overtly (Lucksted & Drapalski, 2015). Although derogating mental illness is common and acceptable, many people are motivated by optimistic self-presentation biases to appear more caring and tolerant. Implicit attitudes tend to show positive results, since respondents have little control over their reaction. An example of such measure is the Implicit Association Test.
Present and Future Concerns
Although there is a whole-hearted belief that stigma has an enormous negative effect, there is an ironic possibility of increasing the severity by reducing stigma. For instance, accepting alcoholism as an illness might decrease apparent self-efficacy to regulate its intake and increase drinking (Weitz, 2013). As stigmas decrease due to increased support in future, it will be essential to assess the probable benefits and drawbacks of the support based on the severity of the illness and enthusiasm for change.
Ways to Mitigate Stigma
Mitigating stigma associated with mental illness is a complicated task. There are ways that can foster transformation and help reduce the mental illness stigma. The protest, contact, and education are some of these ways. A protest refers to an objection. It is an attempt to withstand the ethical outrage. It can be used to suppress the stigmatization outlook by instructing individuals against thinking about negative typecasts. The effort to keep undesirable thoughts out of one’s mind makes the thoughts more adamant (Corrigan & Rao, 2012).
Education is a means of delivering information to a certain population. Often, education is used when contradicting myths with facts. However, education does not endure for long and is normally limited to decrease irrepressible stigmatizing outlooks.
An interpersonal contact with the individual having mental illness is the most effective of the three ways when trying to mitigate the stigma. Unlike education, which only changes the attitude, the interpersonal contact has the capability of changing both the attitude and behavior.
The stigma of mental disorder has shattering consequences in the life of both the individual and the family. Experiential findings and qualitative suggestions show that the stigma against the people with mental disorder remains widespread across nations and in many cultures. The stigma constitutes a noteworthy obstruction to fruitful treatment and reduces an individual’s opportunities in life. The stigma has an impact on individuals’ beliefs in themselves and on the options for life.
In addition, there are financial constraints with the individuals having a mental illness, since it is very difficult for them to get a job. They, therefore, are not able to seek medical services. Medical professionals also seem not to offer help that people with mental disorders need so badly. The workplace does not create a favorable environment for individuals perceived to suffer from mental illnesses. Employers in most cases avoid recruiting them, and those already employed are not treated like the rest and earn less compared to their colleagues doing the same job. Property owners also do not entrust them with their property, which leads to homelessness among many persons with mental disorders.