Worldwide, stigmatization and discrimination against people who have a mental illness is an issue of public health concern. This is because most individuals who have mental illness are challenged twice; firstly, they are struggling with the symptoms & disabilities which are as a result of the disease and secondly, they are stereotyped and bigoted owing to misconception relating to mental illness (Corrigan &Watson, 2002). Individuals who have mental illness represent a significant proportion of the globe’s population (World Health Organization, 2010). It has been approximated that roughly a million people die from suicide annually and one out of four people globally experiences mental illness in their lifetime.
Globally, persons with mental disorders, cognitive health services and professionals of mental health are subjected to negative publicity and are stigmatized and discriminated against despite the fact that there is growing evidence of the essence of mental health for development (Sadik, Bradley, Al-Hasoon & Jenkins, 2010). Mental health impacts several development outcomes and is the basis for social stability since it serves as a vital determinant of the well-being and quality of life (WHO, 2010).
Because mental health is a crucial indicator of human development, problems linked to stigmatization and discrimination on people with mental health disabilities should not be underestimated or washed away. The World Health Organization for example linked stigma and discrimination related to mental illness to suffering, disability, and poverty (Corrigan & Watson, 2002; Crabb et al., 2012). This paper will focus on how stigma and discrimination limit the rehabilitation of persons suffering severe mental health condition. The paper will also focus on ways that I as a health/rehab professional would play in reducing this impact on a person with mental challenges.
According to the seminal work relating stigma, Goffman (1963) pointed out that stigma is an aspect which is deeply discrediting and which results in making one feel different from the rest and of a less pleasant kind. This unpleasant phenomenon is usually followed by prejudice, rejection, loss of status and discrimination (Link & Phelan 2011, p, 380). According to Byrne (2000), bigoting is a symbol of disgrace or dishonor and which result to separating one from the rest of the people.
Effects of stigma on mentally ill persons
The effects of stigma on individuals suffering from mental health challenges are equally painful like the mental illness itself. The stigma leads the community to form the following attitude and actions toward people who have a mental disorder: fear, discrimination, and mistrust. The effects of stigma on people living with mental illness lead them to Form fear of “coming out,” minimize the need to seek necessary mental health care, form practices of individual-stigmatization and undergo discrimination.
Prejudice and discrimination as a barrier to accessing healthcare for the mentally ill people
Lack of support from health service providers
According to Corrigan and colleagues, they noted that stigma usually becomes structural when it imbues societal institutions and systems. They pointed out that insurance doesn’t cover mental health care, and mental health research isn’t well funded are an indication that stigma and lack of sufficient support for mental illness are persistent at the structural level. Failure for there to be enough support for them mentally ill people results to them to shying away from seeking any help.
Also, Druss and colleagues went on to point out that people who have mental illness are unlikely to receive a similar range of insurance benefits like persons without a mental disability (Druss, Allen, & Bruce, 1998; Druss & Rosenheck, 1998).
Fear of discrimination from the public
More than 60 million US citizens are said to undergo mental illness annually, and the effects of mental illness are felt more among members of the family, friends, and colleagues. Though there exist effective evidence-based treatment, approximately 40% of individuals suffering from adverse mental condition don’t receive care and majority of those who start the rehabilitation process fail to finish it. This were the findings established from a report that was published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. This report noted that fear of stigma from the family was a huge barrier for people with mental conditions for going for rehabilitation.
The family members of this people usually lock them in the house and refuse to take them for rehabilitation. They do this for fear to be labeled and discriminated by members of the public. It is understandable that their situation is challenging and is affecting other family members when one of them is suffering. To limit further problems, family members opt to lock them in the house or refuse to be seen with them in public. The desire to limit public stigma or shame forces family members or person who have mental illness to cease going for treatment.
Self -stigma impacts negatively on one’s Self-Esteem
Individuals may avoid stigma related to mental illness owing to the possible effects of stigma on a person’s self. Staying in a culture full of stigmatizing pictures, individuals with mental disabilities can accept such ideas hence resulting to them to suffering low self-esteem, self-efficacy, and confidence (Holmes & River, 1998, p, 235). Several studies have indicated that persons who have mental illness usually internalize such stigmatizing notions which are endorsed by the society and come to believe that they are not valued due to their psychiatric condition (Link & Phelan, 2011, p, 380).These people tend to agree with such prejudice that they are weak and cannot take care of themselves. Theses Self-prejudice results to negative emotional reaction; like minimal self-esteem and less self-efficacy.
Several studies have indicated that there exist a significant link between shame and avoiding treatment. Self-prejudice and self-discrimination usually interfere with one’s life objectives and quality of life. Self-prejudice often lowers the possibility of a mentally ill person from going for rehabilitation. This is because they tend to give up on life owing to the fact they have accepted the prejudice from the public and believed in them hence. They see no need for help. The potential of self-stigma may result to label avoidance and reduced treatment participation by the patient.
Fear of divulging their situation
Privacy is an important aspect more so when it comes to mental illness. People who have mental condition prefer that their condition is not known to many because they fear discrimination from members of the public. By visiting a doctor or going for rehabilitation, there is a possibility that their situation will be uncovered hence resulting in their situation becoming known not only by the physician but also some members of the public. This eventually may lead to shame and prejudice on their part and which is what they are running away from (APS, 2017).
Keeping their situation private is what on most occasion’s results to mentally ill persons from refusing to seek medical help. They rather have the public in ‘the dark’ regarding their situation than to have them to know about their status and which eventually may lead to endless victimization for probably the rest of their lives.
Ways of minimizing stigma and discrimination
As earlier noted, stigma and discrimination are as a result of people lacking sufficient information/knowledge relating to mental disorder. Adequate research has indicated that individuals who have sufficient information regarding mental disorder are less stigmatizing when compared to people who are not informed on matters relating to mental disorder. The less informed individuals who are practicing discrimination, are acting from the point of ignorance.
This means that through providing people with factual information about the condition would lower stigmatization hence allowing more individuals with the condition to seek medical attention since they public is well informed about their situation. As a health professional working with a mentally ill person, I would ensure that the public is well informed about the condition.
Stigma persists if the individual is unable to overcome their situation. I would encourage the patient that I am working with to join local and national groups, like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). These groups play a vital role when it comes to overcoming stigmatization. These groups tend to provide their members with regional programs and Internet resource which are directed towards minimizing stigma through educating people regarding mental illness, their families and the public (Staff, 2017).
Apart from educating their members about their condition, such play a crucial role in that members tell of their journey towards recovery and some of the challenges that they have encountered and how they overcame them. These groups are meant to ensure that the mentally ill person receive enough support plus inform them that they are not alone.
Mental illness is a condition which affects many people globally. Many people are suffering in silent due to the fear of public shame and being discriminated against by members of the public. Those discriminating against the mentally ill person are doing so since the do not have sufficient information regarding the condition. Failure by the mentally sick person to seek help may lead to the worsening of their situation. As a result, there is a need for there to be a massive education in matters relating to the condition. This would lead to reduced bigoted situation hence allowing more people with the condition to seek help. Through having support groups, the mentally ill people may be able to get sufficient help in their journey towards recovery.
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