Mental health stigma is characterized by negative attitudes and discriminating behaviour towards individuals with mental health problems. Stigmata are held as true regardless of facts ,personal experience and knowledge that confirm it as so. The most common stigmata are that individuals with mental health problems have themselves to blame, are incapable, abnormal, dangerous, unpredictable and generally hard to talk to (Crisp et al., 2000)
An individual, who suffers from a mental health problem may also hold self-stigma. S/he begins to believe the negative thoughts expressed by others and starts thinking of the self in the same terms e.g. as being hopeless, unable to recover, less valued, undeserving of love or to blame for own condition. Self-stigma may lead to a sense of hopelessness and helplessness that nothing will ever change and life will always be the same, so why even try to do something about it.
Stigmatizing beliefs about individuals with mental health problems are held by many people in our society. They can come from peers, family members, GPs, physicians, teachers, strangers etc. Discrimination may be obvious and direct, such as direct negative remarks or it may be indirect, subtle or unintentional, such as avoidance of contact. Additional harmful behaviours are gossip, isolation, exclusion, harassment, bullying, patronization, antagonism and underestimation of one’s abilities. The common emotions expressed are pity, distrust and fear.
The impact of the prejudice and discrimination on an individual with mental health is enormous. Many individuals feel misunderstood, ignored, excluded and even shunned by family members, friends, coworker, neighbors, potential employers, partners etc. This social exclusion and lack of support diminish the self- esteem and self-efficacy even more. Social stigma can reduce vocational opportunities and success. Some may face discrimination at the work place and are forced to resign or get dismissed. In time, the quality of life and the physical health become poorer.
Studies also show that individuals labelled as mentally ill are less likely to benefit from the same depth and breadth of available health care services as people without mental health problems. These are only some of the negative consequences of the stigma that make it harder to part take in society. Stigma also prevents many from seeking psychological help. Those who do seek help, often get confronted with the stigma of being in therapy. As consequence it may hinder efficient and effective outcome of the therapy, as well as, therapy perseverance and endurance. This detrimental and dangerous stigma needs to be eradicated. We need to treat each other with mutual respect and support.
Since part of stigma originates from ignorance, please watch this video and find out more about what it really feels like to have mental health problems from those who have it.Listen to how they experience it and what they need from us.
Feel free to share and be part of an effort to stop this stigma and its horrendous impact.
If you are facing mental health adversities- you are not alone! Reach out and seek the help you need from a mental health professional and ask for support from people, who you truly trust and have your best interest at heart.