The Stigma of Mental Disorder

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While stigma may not necessarily be a cause of a person’s mental disorder, it can certainly contribute to the complication and perpetuation of their illness. The effect of stigma goes well beyond just the patient and provides a commentary on society’s overall level of intolerance of those who are considered different from the majority. By recognizing the level of stigma that exists, perhaps we can alter that behavior and gravitate towards a more productive attitude towards mental illness. There are certain negative connotations that people use when identifying those who they consider to be different from the majority. Stereotyping is a means of assigning a set of characteristics to a group of people usually in an unflattering, over-generalizing way. Prejudice is forming an opinion, usually negative, about a person without having any real basis or facts to support that opinion. Discrimination is taking some form of negative action against a particular person rather than taking a positive action that you would normally take towards another person. Stigma is assigning a negative label to someone who is considered to be different for some reason. In the context of mental illness, all of these can contribute to making a patient feel even worse than he already does from his disorder and could potentially contribute to the success or failure of his ability to overcome the disorder. Stigma can directly impact the patient and indirectly impact his family, friends, and others in his Bogden 2 support system. The patient could presume that because of the stigma others would... ... middle of paper ... ...ting effects. We are not born prejudice; rather we generally learn it from those around us. Responsible families that teach tolerance to their children provide the foundation to eliminating prejudice and stigma. A strong focus on education will also help to open the mind to individuality. When your mind is open and generally without malice you can recognize differences in people from a positive rather than a negative standpoint. Mental illness is a difficult, but not impossible concept, to understand. It could probably be considered in a similar context as having a physical disability. So to reduce stigma regarding mental illness, it starts with the family unit positively influencing its members. Those family members lead by example in the community, and hopefully that trend becomes contagious well beyond the community’s immediate borders.

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