BREAK DOWN THE BARRIERS
Three out of four people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma. Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart. When a person is labelled by their illness they are seen as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination, so we all need to combat the stigma.
Stigma brings experiences and feelings of:
- misrepresentation in the media
- reluctance to seek and/or accept necessary help
Families are also affected by stigma, leading to a lack of support. For mental health professionals, stigma means that they themselves are seen as abnormal, corrupt or evil, and psychiatric treatments are often viewed with suspicion and horror.
A 2006 study found that:
- nearly 1 in 4 of people felt depression was a sign of personal weakness and would not employ a person with depression
- around a third would not vote for a politician with depression
- 42% thought people with depression were unpredictable
- one in 5 said that if they had depression they would not tell anyone
- nearly 2 in 3 people surveyed thought people with schizophrenia were unpredictable and a quarter felt that they were dangerous
- Some groups are subjected to multiple types of stigma and discrimination at the same time, such as people with an intellectual disability or those from a cultural or ethnic minority.
HOW CAN WE COMBAT STIGMA?
We all have a role in creating a mentally healthy community that supports recovery and social inclusion and reduces discrimination. Simple ways to help include:
- be a voice for the voiceless
- learn and share the facts about mental health and illness with others
- get to know people with personal experiences of mental illness
- speak up in protest when friends, family, colleagues or the media display false beliefs and negative stereotypes
- offer the same support to people when they are physically or mentally unwell
- don’t label or judge people with a mental illness, treat them with respect and dignity as you would anyone else
- don’t discriminate when it comes to participation, housing, and employment
- talk openly about your own experience of mental illness. The more hidden mental illness remains, the more people continue to believe that it is shameful and needs to be concealed.