Mental health stigma
Mental health stigma
What is stigma? Firstly, the word stigma comes from a Greek word ‘stigmata’ (Oveton & Medina, 2008, p. 143). Stigmata means, or refers to, ‘shame’ or one being flawed in character. SANE Australia states that stigma usually focuses on negative and ill-informed attitudes (2013, p. 1). Mental health stigma basically involves feelings, attitudes and behaviours which are negative towards those with mental illness, or as many would prefer to say, “a mental health challenge”.
The magnitude of mental illness across Australia, and other countries of course, is profound (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016). With as many as one in five Australians experiencing a mental illness/challenge at any one time, and with stigma involved, we have a huge battle ahead of us in improving the lived of those who face various battles such as psychotic illness, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and any other mental health challenge.
Stigma is complicated and involves various facets. There are basically three levels of stigma which include self-stigma, social stigma, and structural stigma as recognised in the Fifth National Mental Health Plan (Austl.). When those of us with mental illness start to take aboard common prejudice about mental illness, and actually start turning against ourselves, we start to become victim of self-stigma. Social stigma basically comprises negative reactions of the public (Rusch, Matthias, Angermeyer & Corrigan, 2005, pp. 529-530), and structural stigma involves social policies and practices which restrict opportunities for people living with mental health challenges, as recognised in the Fifth National Mental Health Plan (Austl.).
To conclude this short article about mental health stigma, as mentioned, it basically involves negative feelings, attitudes and behaviours, and this is seen or demonstrated by stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination (SANE, 2013, p. 6), although stereotyping in itself does not necessarily denote stigma, as it refers to thought process or knowledge structures which are learnt by other social groups. It is actually when a person sanctions or actively approves of such beliefs that it becomes prejudice (Oveton & Medina, 2008, p. 144). I might hold a stereotypical belief that all, or most Russian women are tall, blue-eyed and blonde, and there may be no negative feelings attached. It might be something that I hold as accurate because that is what I have heard many others say. It is only when I attach negative thoughts and feelings when it become prejudice. If I were to exclude them from something, such as excluding them from a support group, then this would be discrimination. So, somebody may hold a false idea that it is difficult to talk to someone with a mental health challenge, but just think that this is just the way it is, and not hold negative connotations to it. Once beliefs start to become evident such as “oh, they’re all crazy”, well, then it becomes a deeper issue.
Stand up to mental health stigma. Have a voice. One recommendations in addressing such issues is to visit My Mental Health
You will find forums here where you can join (for free of course) and connect with others. Collectively, and with strengthened voices, we can make a bigger change!
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2016). Overview of mental health services in australia: prevalence, impact and burden.
Fifth National Mental Health Plan 2016 (Cth) (Austl.).
Overton, S. L. & Medina, S. L. (2008). The stigma of mental illness. Journal of Counselling and Development, 86(2).
Rusch, N., Matthias, Angermeyer, C. & Corrigan, P. W. (2005). Mental illness stigma; Concepts, consequences, and initiatives to reduce stigma, 20.
SANE. (2013). A life without stigma.