Social stigma refers to the devaluating, disgracing, and disfavouring of individuals with particular qualities by the general public (Abdullah, 2011). According to the Government of Western Australia Mental Health Commission (2010), three out of four people with a mental illness experience social stigma. Individuals are often labeled by their illness, and are seen as a part of a stereotyped group created by negative attitudes and beliefs towards mental illness. One of the most commonly held beliefs is that people with mental illnesses are dangerous and unpredictable- especially those with schizophrenia or substance use disorder (Crisp et al, 2000). The focus of this essay is to evaluate the impact social stigma has on people with mental illnesses. The essay will then conclude with a discussion of contact strategies, and how they can help eliminate barriers that prevent individuals from receiving treatment.
The Role of Stigma in Mental Illness
Social stigma embraces both prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviour towards people with mental illnesses (Davey, 2013). Discrimination results in individuals receiving fewer opportunities, and reduced access to resources (Abdullah, 2011). For example, social stigma could prevent an individual from securing employment, receiving higher education, or establishing relationships with others. This can then diminish an individual’s self-esteem and self-worth (Corrigan, 2004), as they feel that they cannot successfully integrate into society. Because of this, individuals often conceal their illness from others, and choose to not engage in treatment in an attempt to avoid social stigma.
According to the Association of Psychological Science (2014), 40% of people with mental ...
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...iefs towards mental illness through interpersonal interaction. The Speakers Bureau initiative is a valuable example of a strategy that can be adopted in order to reduce social stigma. Education constructs like this can be used to facilitate condition favourable contact between members of the public, and people from the stigmatised group. If different government organisations, private companies, and schooling systems were to utilise a similar education construct, which fosters condition favourable interaction, social stigma could be reduced on a large scale. This would ultimately eliminate the negative stereotype associated with mental illness, altering society’s overall perception of people with mental illnesses. People with mental illnesses would then no longer feel ashamed by their illness, and feel able to seek help from others, and engage in successful treatment.
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