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Social Stigma and the Disclosure and Diagnosis of Mental Illness in the UK

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Mental illness is very common and affects thousands of people in the UK and around the world. Research shows that every year 1 in 4 British adults experience at least one mental disorder (Singleton et al, 2001, 32) and around 450 million people worldwide are estimated to have a mental health problem (World Health Organisation, 2001). Mental illness can be defined as “Medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder” (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2013). Negative stigmas of mental health are established in everyday society such as in the media, language used, policies, laws and even in the attitudes and practices of mental health professionals. Stigmatisation is very harmful to a person with a mental health illness, isolates them from society and affects personal identity (Prior et al, 2003). It is argued that stigma prevents people from disclosing that they have a mental health problem and that stigma among mental health practitioners perpetuates stigma among society and hiders proper diagnosis.
Disclosure is when a person decides to tell another about their mental illness; it can be difficult to do and is a personal choice. There many people that individuals feel they have to disclose their mental illness to including friends, family, loved ones and employers. Particularly within a workplace or when applying for jobs, disclosing mental illness to an employee can prove very difficult and the fear of discrimination and stigmatisation is feared.
A study conducte...


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...gleton N, Bumpstead R, O’Brien M, Lee A, Meltzer H. (2001) Psychiatric Morbidity Among Adults Living In Private Households. London: The Stationery Office.
Time to Change (2008) Stigma Shout: Service user and carer experiences of stigma and discrimination. London: Time to Change
Verhaeghe, M & Bracke, P (2012). Associative Stigma among Mental Health Professionals: Implications for Professional and Service User Well-Being. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour. 53:17 –32

Wahl, Otto & Harman, Charles (1989) Family Views on Stigma. Schizophrenia Bulletin : Vital Statistics, Demography, and Schizophrenia. 15: 131-139
Wilkins & Kemple (2011) Delivering male, effective practice in male mental health. The Men's health Forum: London
World Health Organisation (2001), The World Health Report 2001 Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope. Geneva: World Health Organisation



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