Stigma is when someone sees an individual or group in a negative way because of a particular characteristic or attribute. Stigma leads to discrimination. When someone treats you in a negative way because of your mental illness, this is discrimination. Approximately 75% of individuals with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma.
TYPES OF STIGMA
Self-stigma occurs when a person internalises negative stereotypes. This causes low self-esteem and low self-efficacy. For example: An individual isolates from society and reinforce feelings of exclusion and social withdrawal.
Social stigma, also called the public stigma, refers to negative stereotypes and prejudices that result in discrimination against people with mental health conditions. For example: An individual with a mental health problem may find that others, including friends and colleagues, avoid them.
Stigma association occurs when the effects of stigma are extended to someone linked to a person with mental health difficulties. This type of stigma is also known as courtesy stigma and associative stigma.
Perceived stigma leads to an internalized shame about having a mental illness. It has been found in a long-term study that this sort of internalized stigma leads to poorer treatment outcomes.
EFFECTS OF STIGMA
- Fear and misunderstanding can lead to prejudice against people with mental illness
- A feeling of shame, hopelessness and isolation
- It can lead to violence, harassment and bullying
- Reluctance to ask for help or get treatment
- Lack of understanding by friends, family, co-worker or others
- Fewer opportunities for employment or social interaction
- Prevents people from seeking health care immediately
- Discourage them from adopting healthy behaviour
- The belief that you won’t be able to achieve your goals and challenges or overcome your illness
HOW TO COPE WITH STIGMA?
- Educate yourself and others: Share your story and struggles with mental illness, educate others about mental health and how we need to overcome stigma.
- Be conscious of your language: Choose your words carefully. Don’t use derogatory language.
- Be aware of your own attitude and behaviour: We all grow up with some judgmental attitudes, but we can change the way we think. View people as unique human beings, not as labels or stereotypes.
- Realize that you aren’t your condition: Illness doesn’t define us. Just like someone with cancer is still the same person before the diagnosis, so is someone with a mental health condition. Avoid using terms like calling someone or yourself as anorexic, bulimic, bipolar or schizophrenic. Instead, it is more accurate to say that an individual is suffering from anorexia, bulimia, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
- Accept and seek help: Try not to let the fear of being labelled with a mental illness stop you from getting help. Reach out to help who you can trust. It can be your friends, family, relatives or closed ones.
- Support people: Show compassion to people who have mental health problems. Treat them with dignity and respect.
- Get treatment: You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don’t let the fear of being labelled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all”Bill Clinton
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