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Social Stigmas

An estimated 26. 2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older, or about one in four adults, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. When applied to the U. S. census in 2004 population estimation for those 18 and older, this translates to 57. 7 million people. (http://www. thekimfoundation. org) Unfortunately, people with serious mental illness are often times face more than just mental challenges.

Most people only recognize the struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the illness/disease; however, they also face challenges from the stereotypes and prejudice that come from the various misunderstandings about mental illness. As a result of both, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life: good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people. (http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. ov/) Researchers have gone far and wide to understand the impact of these diseases, yet they have only recently begun to explain the stigmas of mental illness. There is still much work that needs to be done to fully understand the extensiveness and possibilities of prejudice against people with mental illness. Before one can hope to understand how stigma may affect those with mental illness, he or she must first understand what a stigma is.

According to (dictionary. com) a “mark of disgrace or infamy/a stain or reproach on an individual’s reputation. Basically, to face a stigma is to encounter various prejudices/assumptions that often times lack evidence or reason. This may be better understood by examining the foundational terms following these actions: stereotypes, prejudice, and/or discrimination. The impact of stigma can even become two sided at times. Public stigma is the reaction that the general population has to people that happen to suffer from mental illness. What some individuals also tend to suffer from is self-stigma.

Self-stigma is the presumptions in which people with mental illness occasionally create against themselves. Perhaps the most common forms of social-stigma are stereotypes. Stereotypes are often times considered “social” because they represent mutually agreed upon concepts by groups of people. From a societal standpoint, they are even seen to be efficient because people can quickly generate impressions and expectations of the individuals who belong to a stereotyped group. Most people are familiar with stereotypes and their meanings; however, this does not indicate that they agree with them.

For example, it is not uncommon for people to recall stereotypes about different racial groups, but not agree with the validity. People who are prejudiced, on the other hand, help to authenticate these negative stereotypes and aid in the generating of the negative emotional reactions that result from them. These are often the people that will believe that all individuals with a mental illness are scary and/or violent (which is obviously false). In contrast to stereotypes, which are beliefs, prejudicial approaches involve evaluating the factor being focused on.

Prejudices are usually based on emotional responses, such as anger or fear, to stigmatized groups. Prejudice, which is essentially a mental and emotional response, can also lead to different levels of discrimination. It is not uncommon for prejudices that yield anger to lead to hostile behavior towards the target. In terms of mental illness, angry prejudice may lead to withholding help or replacing health care with services provided by the criminal justice system (http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov). Another factor in prejudice is fear. Fear usually leads to avoidance of the source of the emotion.

For example, an employer may not want people with mental illness nearby due to the fear that often follows, so they will more than likely not hire them in concern of it resulting in bad business decisions and/or loss of customers. Prejudice can also be turned inward, which leads to self-discrimination. Self-stigma and/or the fear of dismissal by those surrounding an them leads to many people not pursuing life opportunities for themselves. Stigma embraces both prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior towards individuals with mental health problems.

The social effects of this include exclusion, poor social support, poorer subjective quality of life, and low self-esteem. (www. psychologytoday. com) As well as its possible effect on the quality of daily living, stigma may also have a negative effect on treatment outcomes. In fact, in 2011, only 59. 6% of individuals with a mental illness — including such conditions as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder — reported receiving treatment. (http://www. psychologicalscience. org/) Coincidentally, this also obstructs efficient and effective recovery from mental health problems.

In particular, self-stigma can be connected to inferior vocational outcomes (success in employment) and increased social isolation. These factors alone should be convincing enough for society to continue attempting to eliminate mental health stigma and guarantee that social inclusion is assisted and recovery can be achieved in an efficient manner. Public/Social Stigma is an idea that applies to all of mankind, not just the culture we live in. Stigmas about mental health issues seem to be widely recognized by the general population of the Western world.

Studies propose that the majority of citizens in the United States and many Western European nations have stigmatizing attitudes about mental illness. Outside of the general populous, denouncing views about mental illness may even effect well-trained professionals. Most mental health disciplines actually subscribe to various stereotypes about mental illness. When compared to Western nations, stigma seems to be less evident in numerous Asian and African countries. It is uncertain whether this finding represents a cultural sphere that does not promote stigma or a dearth of research in these societies. http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov)

The available research indicates that, while attitudes toward mental illness vary among most non-Western cultures, the stigma of mental illness may be less severe than that of the Western societies. While the potential for stigmatization of mental illness certainly exists in non-Western cultures, it seems to primarily attach to the more chronic forms of illness that fail to respond to traditional treatments. (http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov) Several themes describe misconceptions about mental illness and the conforming stigmatizing attitudes.

For example, media evaluation of film and print have acknowledged three in particular: people with mental illness are homicidal maniacs who need to be feared, they have childlike perceptions of the world that should be marveled, or they are responsible for their illness because they have weak character. Despite stigmatizing attitudes not being limited to mental illness, the public seems to condemn people with mental disabilities more than people with related conditions such as physical illness.

Contrasting those with physical disabilities, people with mental illness are often times perceived by the public to be in control of their disabilities and responsible for causing them. One of the most common actions towards those with mental illness or disabilities is complete social avoidance. This means that the public strives to not interact with people with mental illness altogether. In 1996, the Mac Arthur Mental Health Module was administered to a sample of 1444 people by the General Social Survey.

The survey found that more than half of the participants were reluctant to spend an evening mingling with, work next to, or have a family member marry a person with mental illness. Stigmas that result in avoidance can also cause issues in employment and leasing safe housing for those effected. Discrimination can also appear in public opinion about how to treat people with mental illness. Although recent studies have been unable to determine the helpfulness of required treatment, more than 40% of the 1996 GSS sample agreed that people with schizophrenia should be forced into seeking treatment for their illness.

Unfortunately, those that live with mental illness may face a “double-whammy. ” Being surround by discrimination, prejudice, and stereotypes makes it easier to internalize these opinions. It is quite obvious that people with a mental disability(s), living in a society that widely indorses stigmatizing ideas, will take on these ideas and begin believing that they are considered less valued because of their disorder. Not only does one’s self-esteem suffer in this kind of situation, but also the confidence in his or her future.

With this in mind, models of self-stigma need to include the damaging effects of prejudice on an individual’s conception of him or herself. There are also situations in which the inflicted have the opposite reactions. Instead of being lessened by the stigma, some people may become angry because of the bias that they have experienced. This kind of reaction may actually empower people to attempt to change their roles in the mental health system and become more active participants in their treatment plan.

These responses are also huge in the pushing for improvements in the quality of services. The primary piece of text I used when typing my paper was “Understanding the Impact of Stigma on People with Mental Illness” by Patrick Corrigan and Amy Watson. The literature can be found on the http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov and was the principal unit that I cited while typing. It was posted in the Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) in February of 2002.

Corrigan and Watson provide a sea of information while also giving specific details to the aspects they believed needed so. The two authors even cited and gave credit to older writers and researchers throughout the information they provided. Despite not having many statistics in their work, the two managed to provide plenty of information about the numbers of people effect by mental health and the stigmas that follow it. The idea of the separation of stigma into the categories of “social” and “self” is what predominantly drew my attention to the specific article.

I feel that while most people recognize the effects of social stigma and the negative effects that follow it; however, not enough attention is given to the self-inflicted stigma that may stem from hateful treatment from others. The authors included tables to aid in organizing the content given and to emphasize some of the details provided. Overall, the article was extremely helpful and had great structuring. The authors covered every aspect of the topic I could imagine and gave thorough information about each idea they offered.

The two did a wonderful job of explaining stigma and how it effects those that have mental illnesses or disabilities. Fortunately, researchers are beginning to apply what the social psychologists have learned about prejudice and stereotypes in general to the stigma related to mental illness. Great strides of progress have made in understanding the extents of mental illness stigma, and the progressions by which public stereotypes are transformed into discriminatory behavior. At the same time, we are actually beginning to develop models of self-stigma.

We now know that it is a far more complex occurrence than initially assumed. The models established at this point in time still need to be tested on various populations, including several different ethnic groups and power-holders. There are also numerous strategies to change stigma being created as time progresses. It turns out that contact with another individual in general seems to be effective for changing attitudes. Continued pursuit of the approaches are needed in order to examine whether changes resulting from anti-stigma interventions are maintained over time.

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