The Stigma of Mental Disorders

TheStigma of Mental Disorders


TheStigma of Mental Disorders

Stigmatizationof mental disorders has led to worsening of mental illness. Stigmaespecially self-stigmatization has gone beyond all other symptoms ofmental illnesses. In this, it has become a maker of shame, and thisshame actually supersedes even the most extreme of symptoms. Stigmais, therefore, the marking of a person as a disgrace and thereforesetting them apart. This then makes them be like a part of astereotyped group. A group that is seen to be of negative qualitiesand is judged negatively by the community. The stigma of mentaldisorders, therefore, can be said to be one of the causes of suicidedeaths in the U.S (Rosenberg &amp Rosenberg, 2013).

Mentalhealth is an important factor in all the stages of life. As it iswhat enables us to cope with life, deal with stress, relate to othersand go about our daily life activities. It includes our social,psychological and emotional well-being. These parameters affect howwe think, feel, and make choices in life. If this health is impaired,it leads to mental illnesses, which are serious disorders that affectour behaviors, moods, and thinking.

Peoplewho suffer from mental disorders are one of the most stigmatized, asthey are marginalized, discriminated against and are vulnerable insociety. The negative assumptions linked to mental illnesses are asharmful as the disease itself. These assumptions are the ones thatcreate the stigma around the mental illnesses. In this, the mentallyill are greatly limited in terms of the opportunities they have insociety. The stigma creates a barrier that allows discrimination andprejudice when conducting their day to day activities. This happenswhen renting homes, accessing mental health services and even whenapplying for jobs.

Mentalillness has been seen human weakness for a long time. In this, peoplewith mental illness were considered to be life proof of humanweakness. Since from long ago diseases were classified in terms ofhow they altered the body. However, with mental disorders thesymptoms are invisible. The symptoms also lead the mentally ill todoubt their reality and be isolated in those realities. In broaderterms, the definition of mental illness is a range of cognitions,behaviors and emotions that hamper with interpersonal interactions,as well as tasks required for work at school or home.

Inthis, it is evident that how the illness affects a person’sdifferent abilities necessary to perform his daily functions oflivelihood. The diagnosis for a mental illness also lies on how greatthe illness impedes a person’s ability to perform his dailyfunctions as in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of MentalDisorders”. In addition, this also proves that one in four peoplehave suffered a mental illness at some point in their lives. Howeverwhen a person is stigmatized getting the treatment he requires isdifficult.

Individualswho are stigmatized are not only find it hard to seek medical care,which intern exposes them to greater risk for suicide, but internview suicide as the best option for them. There are differentenvirons in which the process of stigmatization happens. For examplethe family. Sometimes the families relations to the patient may leadto the feeling stigmatized. The family members can behave in such away that makes the patient feel that suicide is the best solution.The family members may also believe unknowingly that suicide would bethe best solution for the patient. In the hospitals also, persons whoare a risk of suicide deserve a considerable relation with the staff.In this, the acceptance of a person’s suicide as a solution wouldmake the patient feel as if suicide is an actual solution. In mentalhealth environs, the greatest sources of stigmatization aredifficulties in dealing with the patient and fear of the patient. Themedical practitioners who feel uncomfortable or have difficulties indealing with the mentally ill, show a negative attitude about suchpatients thus increasing the stigma.

Suicidesone of the major causes of the deaths in the world and also America.The death by suicide supersedes the deaths caused by homicides andwar combined. In the world, it is estimated that 40 million peopledie of suicide each year. This is about a person per 40 seconds. Thetragedy of suicides has affected the young people mostly. In relationto this essay, the largest number of people who die by their own-handsuffer from a mental illness. Mental illness is estimated tocontribute about 25 percent of the total world burden making it bethe most popular disease. However, the mentally ill patients who dieby suicide do not contact medical or social services at the time oftheir deaths. This is many times is due to the lack of efficient helpin the time of need. The lack of enough medical help is also one ofthe causes that magnify the stigma associated with mental illnesses.

Peoplewith mental illnesses can be stigmatized in many ways. In this, theycan be denied the right to work or accommodation because of theirhealth condition. It is so because it diminishes self-esteem and robspeople of their opportunities. Many times social stigmatizationoccurs, this is when people do not wish to associate with thementally ill. The mentally ill person can be prevented to providechildcare or even declined to a date. When all of this happens, thepersons who are mentally ill can stigmatize themselves. It is becausemany of the mentally ill are seen as incompetent, violent, andimpulsive. They are also objects of ridicule or mockery. In this,they direct the stereotype view provided by the society tothemselves. They purport that they will be rejected and by sobelieving that they do not have any value.

Thediscrimination brought about by the stigmatization can greatly impacton self-esteem and confidence. In turn, this increases the feelingsof isolation and reinforces exclusion and social withdrawal. Somemedical practitioners have indicated this as one of the greatestbarriers to recovery. Since, many times it is not the symptoms thathinder the patients from getting better but people’s attitudes.

Someinterviews conducted on this issues revealed that stigmatization anddiscrimination of the mentally ill are mainly caused by ignorance orlack of knowledge. The public have little knowledge of the mentalillnesses and also the information they have is subject to biases oris incorrect. Many people are yet to understand the differencesbetween learning disabilities and mental illnesses. Additionally,there is still the misconception that people with depression can snapand be aggressive all of a sudden. Even some age groups are mosttargeted by the discrimination. Those in their teens and early 20sand those in their 50s experiencing the utmost negative attitudes.People who discriminate against others have the “them” and “us”attitude. In this, they view themselves as though they cannot beaffected or undergo the same peril (Rosenberg &amp Rosenberg, 2013).

Christina,one of the interviewees, explains living with depression as a hardpath as people many times misunderstands her. People would give her alook that would signify pity, not sure what they would say, commentor advice on the situation and also that they would want to run awayfrom her as fast as possible. She felt like talking to people wouldnot help at all. The reactions she got were devastating. As sheclarifies that some of the most people who were the cruelest to herwere those who did not understand. However, it takes quite a specialpersons who could look you in the eye and honestly say, ‘Hey Idon’t know what you are going through but I’ll be here with youall the way.

Christinawas first diagnosed with clinical depression at age 17. At thispoint, her best friend’s mom told her to stay away. The mother ofher best friend perhaps thought that she would infect her daughterwith depression. Maybe, even that she would turn rampage oneverything and go on screaming in the streets. Although she seems notto have any real problems, she was suffering inside. Many of herpeers told her to pull it together as it was like she was lettingeveryone down.

However,she clearly notes that it was her friends who contributed to herbeing back on her feet. It was the friends that stayed with her andcomforted her that made her feel safe. Some of them would bringflowers and sit with her to show their support. In this, she advisesthat if someone has a mental illness don’t ignore them, just bewith them and assure them that it will be fine.

Minutemanis another lady who would talk about anything. She would give a storyabout anything. Grabbing people’s attentions is her priority justto make them laugh and leave a smile on their faces. However beneaththat composed look is a patient suffering from bipolar disorder. Shelikes to keep things to herself because she knows how things can get.Just her family and some few close friends know about her condition,no one else is supposed to know. She feels frightened and alone, butno one can know that too. What she really feels is fear but she keepshidden so deep in her, as she would amuse anyone about any aspect ofher life. However what she really feels, she keeps it to herself. Ifshe attends any function, she has to keep her fear to herself. Thestigmatization is too much for people with her condition she says.People fear the unknown, and she is one of that. She doesn’t wantpeople to see her differently just what she portrays for them.

Inthis, it is evident that the diagnosis of this illnesses can beoverwhelming. The way people take in the information is different,and all the pressure majorly falls to those the patients. How willtheir families react? How would society see them? Will they stillhave the same opportunities and privileges they had before? Or willthey be given the pity, unable look? This is what Peter went through.He sometimes described people looking at him like a bomb that can gooff any second. He is the “depressed”. That’s the name theyreferred to him. However, all he needed was a friend and someone toassure him of a better future so that he could get better.

Stef,another girl who only feels low. She describes herself as small, andneedy (Rosenberg &amp Rosenberg, 2013). Surrounded by failure.Yearning so much to meet her real self. She is afraid that everyoneelse is so happy, and she is not. Is this how she is supposed to beor is there something, some explanations to her feeling this way.Outwardly she portrays a look of self-confidence, strong andoutspoken lady. However, she still wonders what it is that she lacksand why is she so afraid to ask for help.

Thistopic needs further understanding in society. People yet to know moreabout mental illness so that they can help others get better quicklyinstead of stigmatizing them. Education about these illnesses shouldbe widespread so that those who suffer from this illnessesunknowingly may find out and seek help. Friends and family shouldalso be educated well enough to know how to handle their familymember for a quick recovery. In addition, medical practitionersshould also change their views on these patients. All this should bedone to prevent the suicidal cases of people feeling lonely to thepoint of thinking of death as the solution to their misery.

Sometactics for dealing with this problem of stigmatization of thementally ill would be

  • Education.

Educatingpeople on the effects of the mental illnesses and also informing themthat for their friends, patients, brothers, sisters, mothers fathersto heal they too have to participate in caring for them.

  • Funding.

Giventhe adverse effect of the problem of stigmatization. As it affectsthe health sector rampantly. In addition, it is the greatest cause ofsuicidal deaths and more popular than heart diseases. The mentalhealthcare systems are still not well funded. Government funding andprivate funding should be combined to give a stable and well-versedsystem of dealing with the mental disorder cases.

  • Also, people should participate in the worldwide suicide prevention day or even other activities that can lead to the contribution of creative ways of eradicating stigmatization.

However,we should not forget our role in the fight of stigmatization. Thementally ill people need our help to get better. For if it was adaughter of ours undergoing this problem we would do whateverpossible to protect them for this is the greatest role of a parent.The protection of our children. So we need to learn the facts aboutthe mental illnesses, sort out people who have experience in thisarea for light to shed on us. We should also be on the forefront tospeak up when any false beliefs are posted about the mental healthissues. This should be done irrespective of who is saying the falseand negative myths, it might be friends, family, colleagues or eventhe media. As we should protect those who are mentally ill like ourdaughters. Lastly, we should not judge discriminate or prejudicethese people anyway.

Inconclusion, mental health is a very serious factor to be put underconsideration at all times. In this, the media should be informedwell enough not to publicize messages that will lead tostigmatization of the mentally ill. However, it should engage in thewar against the stigmatization of the mentally ill. In addition, asit has been noted in many pieces of research those under the age, 19are the most filled with negative sentiments on the mentally ill. Inthis, attempts should be made to educate this age group about theissues involved for them to be able to try and understand those whosuffer in this disease. Research should be undertaken rampantly inorder to try and come up with better ways of reducing stigmatizationas by this the suicide rates will also reduce greatly (Rosenberg &ampRosenberg, 2013).


Rosenberg,J., &amp Rosenberg, S. (2013). Communitymental health: Challenges for the 21st century.New York, NY: Routledge.