Understand What Mental Illness Stigma Is
Mental illness stigma refers to the shame, fear and discrimination still experienced by people living with mental health conditions. It results in negative consequences ranging from social exclusion to healthcare inequity. Here we’ll look at how these attitudes are formed as well as strategies for fighting stigma and encouraging acceptance.
Mental health stigma is a form of discrimination which results from negative attitudes, fears and beliefs that people have about mental illness. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways including through insults or assumptions, avoiding social contact with those affected, declining to provide emotional support, or refusing to hire someone on the basis of their condition. These attitudes can be damaging not only to those directly affected but also to society at large.
Recognize Discrimination Against Those Experiencing Mental Illness
Stigma doesn’t just exist in our minds—it can manifest itself in the form of actual discrimination against those living with mental health issues. It’s important to recognize when stigma is influencing behavior and work to challenge it. This could mean standing up for someone who is being treated unfairly or speaking out against stigmas in informal conversations and social media discussions. We all have a role to play in breaking down mental health stigma.
Take Action to Reduce Stigmas and Promote Mental Wellness in Your Community
The more active you are in promoting mental wellness in your community, the more powerful a difference you can make. Try to identify and challenge any stigmas or attitudes that may be having an effect on how people with mental health issues are treated. Offer support and get involved in conversations about mental health, helping to spread awareness and create a safe, open atmosphere for discussion. Knowledge is power when it comes to reducing stigma—so let’s use it!
According to Wikipedia on Mental Illness, “Stigma and discrimination can add to the suffering and disability associated with mental disorders, leading to various social movements attempting to increase understanding and challenge social exclusion.”
Encourage Media Representation of Those Coping With Mental Illness
Media representation of those coping with mental illness can have a positive effect on how we view their experience. By understanding the stories of those living with mental health issues, people may become more aware and empathetic towards them. Encourage media and entertainment outlets to showcase characters or stories involving mental illness—by doing this you will help to chip away at stigmas about mental health in our society!
Encourage Media to not Blame Crimes on Mental Illness so Fast
Speaking of media outlets, on the negative side, media outlets and news have all too often jumped to blame mental illness when horrific murders have happened, and jump to conclusions that the murder must have been suffering from a mental illness to be able to do that horrible crime. This quick judgement to association of murder and crime to imply its primarily caused by an individual’s mental illness is very dangerous to categorically lump in all “mental illness” like that. There are such a wide range of mental illnesses and none of them in fact actually cause them to want to murder people. There has to be something seriously deranged and evil, some built up and undealt with hate and bitterness.
People need to start holding the media accountable for this wreckless generalization that contributes to the stigma surrounding mental illness in a dangerous way. You can’t send two different messages and expect people to want to get help and not be ashamed of their diagnosis. I wrote more about this in my other post When something bad happens, blame it on mental illness
Educate Loved Ones By Listening and Having Open Conversations About Mental Health Issues
When it comes to fighting the stigma that surrounds mental health, educating yourself and others is essential. Start a conversation with your family and friends about different types of mental illness so they can become better informed and more understanding. The more people are exposed to accurate representations of mental illness, the more likely they will view it in a compassionate light!