The stigma around mental illness is seemingly inevitable if you are one that has been clinically diagnosed. For years now, one that acquires mental illness experiences severe discrimination. Research by Carr, Bhagwat, Miller and Ponce (2014) support the idea that individuals that experience mental illness frequently encounter stigma and disenfranchisement. Mental illness has an impact on individuals, and this impact extends further than just the psychiatric symptoms (Carr et al, 2014).
This essay will further examine the discrimination and burdens that individuals with mental illness are faced with, as well as the solutions that have been put into place to decrease the limitations and discrimination for these individuals. Also, potential future preventatives such as increased levels of community support and changes made in the social justice system will be discussed. Furthermore, authors Lucksted and Drapalski suggest that people experiencing self-stigma are not at fault but are still left with the effects.
The Limitations That Individuals Face Because Of Stigmatization The stigmatization and discrimination of mental illness limits lives in many different ways. Authors Kroska and Harkness (2011) suggest that when an individual is diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, they are placed into a cultural category; for example, being considered “a mentally ill person”, and studies suggest that this damages their material, psychological and social well being. It is also stated that the negative social conceptions associated with their disorder become personally relevant and foster feelings of demoralization.
Additionally, patients damaged self-concept triggers defensive behaviors because of this rejection that is felt. Examples of this include concealing psychiatric treatment history and withdrawing from social interaction (Kroska & Harkness, 2014). Impacts on the individual of stigmatization vary. Those with mental illness feel that they need to withdraw themselves from society. This leads to poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and far reaching social justice implications (Carr et al, 2014).
Considering the above, it is assumed that with these implications on ones life there would be a decrease in self-esteem, empowerment, hope and sense of recovery with the individual. Also the individual might feel reluctant to receiving treatment and other supports. In turn, this may prevent the individual in pursuing any potential life goals, involvement in the community, and will refrain from maintaining relationships and seeking support (Lucksted & Drapalski, 2015).
Nonetheless, it is becoming well documented in research that many people with mental illness experience a significant amount of negative effects from the internalized stigma (Lucksted & Drapalski, 2015). Social distancing is a major effect that marginalized individuals face, and Cooley’s concept of the looking glass self is used to explain this. The looking glass self articulated that ideas about ourselves are shaped by how we believe other sees us, and as a result, negative judgments are what shape the individuals self-concept (Lucksted & Drapalski, 2015).
Furthermore, as Lucksted and Drapalski (2015) suggest, this leads to “internalized stigma” or “self-stigma”; the incorporation of others prejudices and stereotypes about people with mental illnesses into beliefs about oneself. Research has found that perceived stigma may affect seeking for mental health treatment, which suggests that self-reliance may serve as significant barrier to care (Lucksted & Drapalski, 2015).
Implementing Social Psychology In Stigmatization Efforts to decrease the stigmatization around mental illness, and to find an understanding of the concept of self-stigma and the interrelationships between it and other constructs are on a continuum of being studied by researchers (Lucksted & Drapalski, 2015). Research has shown that the mental health recovery movement has presented multiple opportunities to help rejuvenate the role of psychologists in helping and addressing the needs of those with mental illness through recovery-oriented evidence based practices and other efforts in the public sector.
In doing so, psychologists of the next generation will be able to provide different styles of interventions to address all social marginalization and discrimination (Carr et al, 2014). Additionally, a 5-year Recovery to Practice initiative was launched by the American Psychological Association (APA) to assess the goal of integrating mental health recovery into psychology training systems and clinical care. APA has also published training modules to help acknowledge the different dimensions of recovery as well as the psychologist’s role throughout the process and within the systems of care (Carr et al, 2014).
Alongside of many other components, supports within the community, developing mutually beneficial ties to the community to fight stigma and create welcoming social environments, meeting basic needs and fostering hope and belief in the individual, these are all able to contribute to help the amounts of stigma towards those with mental illness decrease, and by doing so will allow these individuals to live the life that they truly deserve (Carr et al, 2014).
In addition, in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created in efforts of prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Also the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980 protected the rights of individuals who reside in local or state mental health facilities, nursing homes, correctional facilities, and institutions for the developmentally and intellectually disabled (Carter, Shimkets & Bornemann, 2014).
As Carrs et al (2014) state, social justice is another major component to the issue of stigmatization around mental illness. Emphasizing social justice will enforce core values of fairness and equity specifically for marginalized individuals and groups that do not share equal power in society due to their physical ability, immigration, sexual orientation, religious heritage, socioeconomic status etc. Potential Future Solutions Action across systems and communities is absolutely necessary for change towards recovery.
Carter et al (2014) make a point in stating the various problems that they have confronted in the past that still continue to this day, and some of which include the lack of funding for research and services, especially compared to support for other illnesses that are far less prevalent and disabling, structural forms of discrimination that impede on an individuals life, and inaccurate media depictions that link mental illness with violence.
The authors also state that the treatment of mental illness should be supported and promoted no differently than afflictions of the body. The concepts of mental health recovery and the social justice system intersect in many different ways in a sense that they both have a dual focus on the effects of oppression and marginalization and the belief in the rights of all individuals to enjoy their benefits on citizenship (Carr et al, 2014).
Furthermore, research has shown that millions of Americans access mental health services each year, and the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions 2012 report show that the majority of Americans now believe recovery for mental illness is possible (Carter et al, 2014). With regard to self-stigma, the development of more effective approaches toward mental illness should become a priority; also, the types of people who experience mental health problems, and/or receive mental health treatment should be taken into account throughout professional practice (Lucksted & Drapalski, 2015).
Alongside of this, communities should be encouraged to make efforts in helping decrease this stigmatization, and using social psychological interventions to promote a healthier atmosphere can do this. Conclusion A diagnosis of mental illness should no longer bring fear of becoming institutionalized but instead should mean a journey to recovery and a meaningful life in the community (Carter et al, 2014).
Continued work is needed to understand what components or strategies are most effective when dealing with mental illnesses, also further exploration on how to offer interventions in a variety of different modalities so as to increase accessibility, uptake and effectiveness should be included in further research. Nonetheless, the stigmatization of mental illness is slowly decreasing, and in order to continue to make change, the steady progress in research shall continue, while the variety of solutions are continued to be put into action.