Lack of awareness and stereotyped views of society about mental illness and makes most people believe that they are violent and dangerous .But in most cases these poor people are at the risk of being attacked by normal people mentally and physically. This fear and ignorance about disease results in isolation of these people which in turn make their situation worse.
Stigma is a mark or label given by the society to a person as part of his activity or illness intentionally or otherwise,and which causes discrimination,shame,hopelessness and misinterpretation.This prevents the person from talking about and in turn delaying timely professional help. . So stigma and discrimination trap people in a cycle of illness. Mental illness causes stigma which in turn worsens the situation.
Mental illness is common. Most people who experience mental health problems recover fully, or are able to live with and manage them, especially if they get help early on. Eventhough many people are effected people with mental health problem still experience discrimination in all walks of life .
Mental health stigma can be divided into two distinct types: social stigma characterized by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviour directed towards individuals with mental health problems. In contrast, perceived stigma or self-stigma is the internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination and perceived stigma can significantly affect feelings of shame and lead to poorer treatment outcomes
Stigmatizing beliefs about individuals with mental health problems are held by a broad range of individuals within society ,and come generally from family members, peers, and teachers, in the form of unwarranted assumptions (e.g. the sufferer was being manipulative), distrust, avoidance, pity and gossip. stigma from peers often led to friendship losses and social rejection.
This discrimination make their difficulties even worse and make it harder to recover. Some of the harmful effects of stigma generally seen are
- Reluctance to seek help or treatment
- Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others you know
- Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
- Bullying, physical violence or harassment
- The belief that you’ll never be able to succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation
Steps to cope with stigma
Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:
- Get treatment. You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don’t let the fear of being labeled 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.
Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma can cause lack of confidence, self-doubt and shame. Illness can be mistaken for personal weakness. Seeking psychological counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others with mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.
- Don’t isolate yourself. you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, clergy or members of your community can offer you support if they know about your mental illness. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support and understanding you need.
- Don’t equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. So instead of saying “I’m bipolar,” say “I have bipolar disorder.” Instead of calling yourself “a schizophrenic,” say “I have schizophrenia.”
- Join a support group. Support groups offer programs and Internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people with mental illness, their families and the general public.
- Get help at school. If you or your child has a mental illness that affects learning, find out what plans and programs might help. Talk to teachers, professors or administrators about the best approach and resources. If a teacher doesn’t know about a student’s disability, it can lead to discrimination, barriers to learning and poor grades.
- Speak out against stigma. Consider expressing your opinions at events, in letters to the editor or on the Internet. It can help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.
Others’ judgments almost always stem from a lack of understanding rather than information based on the facts. Learning to accept your condition and recognize what you need to do to treat it, seeking support, and helping educate others can make a big difference.