How does stigma against mental health affect people with mental illness?
First off, what are the different types of stigma? There are two, public stigma and self-stigma (3). The former relates to prejudices attitudes are formed by others. The latter is when prejudices attitudes are created towards oneself.
Furthermore, stigma varies depending on the type of mental illness one has. For example, having schizophrenia is loathed, whereas depression is met with more sympathy (5). This can translate into how much one experiences the effects of stigma against mental health.
A large contributor to the stigma is mass media. Symptoms of mental illness are often over and underrepresented, not being portrayed to their true nature. For instance, films and TV shows frequently depict people with OCD to obsessively clean and organize their surroundings. This stereotype pushes the narrative that people who suffer from it all experience the same symptoms to the same degree which is minimization.
Here are some common effects that people with mental illness experience due to the stigma against mental health:
- lower self-esteem
- harassment, violence, or bullying
- reluctance to seek out help
- lack of understanding from others
As a result of these effects, people with mental illness develop self-stigma which in return causes poorer recovery for those with it (2). These effects also translate into the lack of resources that are available to those that live with mental illness. This is supported by the fact that 1 in 4 workers say they would not know where to turn to for mental health help if a co-worker needed it (4). Additionally, psychiatrists generally have more positive attitudes towards people with mental illness, however, they still contribute to the stigma against them and ranked the highest in degree of stigma in a study.
How do we reduce the stigma?
Talk about it! Speaking about mental illness helps normalize the fact that 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness in any given year. By normalizing it, it reminds those with it that they are not alone and help is always there (1).