Mental Health Stigma

Stigma – a set of prejudicial attitudes and values, which may lead to discriminatory behaviours.

In the context of mental health, there are two main types of stigma:

Social stigma: Includes the negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviours that society or particular individuals hold towards those with mental health problems

Self-stigma: This is where people with mental health problems believe what is being said about their condition and agree with their viewpoints

There are a number of adverse effects caused by stigma, including:

Fear of disclosing to peers that you have a problem

Reluctance to seek professional support

Victimisation, harassment and physical violence

Difficulties finding employment and taking part in activities

Lack of understanding from family and friends

Develop a practice of self-stigmatisation

No individual should have to tolerate others treating them differently because of a mental health condition. Here are some points to help combat stigma:

Seek professional help - don't let the fear of being ‘labelled’ with

a mental illness stop you

Show your family and friends reliable information to improve their understanding

Don’t equate yourself with your condition

Join a support group to talk about stigma and relate to others

Organise local campaigns or get involved with national campaigns

Stigma and discrimination can also worsen someone's mental health problems, and delay or impede their getting help and treatment, and their recovery. Social isolation, poor housing, unemployment and poverty are all linked to mental ill health. So stigma and discrimination can trap people in a cycle of illness.

The situation is exacerbated by the media. Media reports often link mental illness with violence, or portray people with mental health problems as dangerous, criminal, evil, or very disabled and unable to live normal, fulfilled lives.

This is far from the case.

Research shows that the best way to challenge these stereotypes is through first hand contact with people with experience of mental health problems. A number of national and local campaigns are trying to change public attitudes to mental illness. These include the national voluntary sector campaign Time to Change.

The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal to discriminate directly or indirectly against people with mental health problems in public services and functions, access to premises, work, education, associations and transport.

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