Society Affix Stigma with Mental Illness
Contributed by Ragini Sinha
Mental disease and its stigma is observed in most of the culture. People of different age, gender or socio-economic status may suffer from mental illness. At least twenty percent of people pass through mental disorders in some way or the other during their lifetime. Stigma towards mentally ill people is very risky. This affects on their ability to perform duties, their revival, treatment procedure and support they receive, and their recognition in the group of people. Stigma is considered as a sign of shame, dishonor or disapproval, of being rejected by others. Stigma is painful and humiliating. In our social structure stigma surrounds with mentally ill persons which is worsening patient's life. It is a need of hour to attribute to the root causes of this unnecessary dilemma from sociological perspective, which creates hindrance in treatment and cure.
Since Civilization, persons suffering from mental barrier of their disability accompanied social stigma and negative social mind-sets. A determined negative outlook and social rejection of people with disabilities is evident all through history and across the culture. Society viewed mentally ill people as either morally wrong or they were being punished by God, or as being possessed by demonic spirits requiring some religious interventions. Persons with mental illness were taken as an entity of social hilarity and they were teased. It has been well recognized that social member always maintain distance with mentally sick people. Research indicates that the extent of social rejection and social stigma differs with precise disabilities, creating a well-defined hierarchical order. People harbor negative social reactions to persons with mental illness across generations regardless of enhanced care, legislative support, and a more advanced medical understanding of the causes and origins of these disabilities.
Researchers are continuously trying to find out the major grounds of mental illnesses being stigmatized in changing world. It has been observed that stigma emerges when people feel uneasy or awkward to talk about behavior they make out as different. The stigma surrounding mental illness is so concentrated that it lays a wall of silence around this issue. Stigma occurs due to many factors. Major constituents are labeling, stereotyping, separation, status loss, and discrimination, further indicates that for stigmatization to occur, power must be exercised. Stigma can be visualizing in many circumstances because stigmatizing progression can interrupt on various fields of people's lives. Stigmatization possibly has a remarkable comportment on the distribution of life chances in mental illness. In our conventional society, people have been misled to accept as fact that an individual with a mental health problem has a weak character or is potentially dangerous. It may be due to imprecision and falsehoods. However, mental health issues only become visible when someone is in a crisis. The majority of the public is unaware of how many people with mental health issues they know and come across every day.
Labeling someone with a condition and stereotyping people with that condition, creating a division - a superior group and a devalued group, resulting in loss of status in the community, discriminating against someone on the basis of their label. Some illnesses remain on the social fringe ignored, mocked, disrespected and discredited. People diagnosed with a mental illness are typically categorized as an object of contempt. Though the expression 'mental illness' itself entails a difference from 'physical' illness, but these two are closely intertwined. It is a truth that physical changes in the brain coupled with mental disorders, signifies a biological origin. Some mental health advocates propose switching to less stigmatized terms, such as behavioral health or brain disorders or brain illnesses. For some people, mental illness is not due to legitimate medical reason but it is an outcome of mentally ill person's wrong actions, decisions and preferences. They are blamed and fed in mind that their illness is all in their head. They may think that mental illness is a sign of weakness or laziness.
People usually apprehend that mental illness is hazardous and erratic. This notion is often ignited by media accounts of crime, although statistics don't bear out a connection between mental illness and violence. Generally people have feeling that person gripped under mental illness is less capable, inefficient, should be institutionalized or will never get improved. As an effect of such stigma, mental illnesses remain the butt of jokes in popular culture. General public develop fear and mistrust and have distorted perceptions through negative depiction by incompetent person against mental illnesses. This is misguiding and leads to stigma. People are more stigmatized to some kind of mental illnesses than others. It depends on seriousness of illness. Schizophrenia, for case in point, is viewed as more dangerous and highly stigmatized than depression. It is usually mocked and misrepresented and is less likely to generate concern. Depression, on the other hand, is less often scorned because antidepressant medications are continuously advertised and assured to public for better result, thus it is more acceptable.
Deinstitutionalization and better treatment and rehabilitation services make comfortable to individuals with mental illness. They receive services at community, agencies. Unfortunately, still the stigma of mental illness remains a significant problem encountered by psychiatric consumers, especially those pursuing education or employment. The influence of stigma encompasses stereotype, prejudice, discrimination, separation, and status loss , which make individuals with MI more vulnerable to social rejection, income loss, limited opportunities for employment or education, relapse, and experiencing another psychiatric disorder. The literature on stigma has been mainly sociological, positing that expected stigma is cognitive beliefs in devaluation-discrimination concerning individuals with MI negatively affects self-esteem.
Stigma is attached to people with mental illness because sometimes a fear is generated that persons with mental illness are seen as violent, brain injured, rationally disabled, trifling, unreliable or inconsequential. When these myths and stereotypes have been nourished for long enough, people can internalize them and start to believe it. This internalized stigma, combined with the external discrimination that may be experienced, make mentally ill feel rejected, lonely, depressed, dismissed and less than human. Whether the people have or have had a mental illness or not, stigma can definitely affect them. The stigma surrounding mental illness has not occurred overnight. Stereotypes, myths and misconceptions can take years to develop into what we mistakenly believe is reality. It will take time to deconstruct much of the stigma in our society, especially because we don't identify it as anything other than reality. There is much we can do to actively challenge stigma, and everyone can play a role.
In our society, many examples can be found which elaborates strong causes of stigma attached to mentally ill people. Mental health advocates severely criticized electronic media as contributing to the stigma of mental illness. Seeing as two decades, television was implicated in perpetuating the stigma attached with mental illness. Since that time, mental health advocates have asserted that the electronic media portray mental illness in an unfavorable and inaccurate manner. Societal members accrue a misconception that mentally ill persons are threat to healthy community through getting inputs from media. Information and broadcasting media like TV, movies, and newspapers do feign people with mental disorders because they do not have appropriate knowledge. They just want to generate the subject more appealing narrative. Sometimes they do not take opinion of medical experts and create fictitious story, which negatively affect on viewer's sensitive mind and people judge mentally ill patient as a great peril to their civilized society. For example, people with mental illnesses are often represented as dangerous or out of control. They are shown to public with ugly get up. But research shows this is hardly ever the case. In our culture there are certain verbal communications which are frequently used against persons with mental problems also generating a negative effect. In other words, stigma can be highlighted by commenting typical disgusting words like "loony," "psycho," or "crazy," though they may seem harmless but can be spiteful. Most of our views and interpretations of stigma attached to mental health issues have been imprecise. We are bordered by stereotype: popular movies about killers with mental health issues; news coverage of tragedies and violence caused by people with mental health issues; jokes about people with mental health issues; the insanity defense and news coverage of homelessness which is typically attributed to mental health issues. These representations distort the public's view and reinforce inaccuracies about mental health issues.
Business sector is also under grip of stigma with mental illness. Mental illness is widespread in organizations. Though public are more aware of mental disorders over the past few decades, managers' understanding and acceptance of the pervasiveness, treatment, and impact on organizational life has lagged behind. Mental illness still carries a stigma in these areas. It may be due to modern psychiatry and clinical psychology is relatively new fields of practice. Due to fear of spoiling image on people, we hardly ever make known our miserable moods, our feelings of stress and anxiety, or other mental symptoms to our work colleagues. Yet in organizational set up discussions take place about allergies, broken bones, influenza, and even cancer- "legitimate" subjects because they are "medical". The reason is same, our organizational staff may misjudge and stigmatize. It will affect greatly on professional and personal domain. Within the field of mental or emotional illness, there should be inequality in the threat value of conditions, relating to differences in behavioral manifestations and possible reversibility. Thus neurotic anxiety sufferers, who are often outwardly nervous and impulsive, should be more threatening to other people than are depressives, whose behavior may be passive and nondestructive. Such variations as have just been mentioned in the threat potential of stigmas should create differential levels of fear and hostility on the part of the non-stigmatized.
This is ever-worst condition of being stigmatize with mental illness than any other health hazards. Many researchers state that people are blamed for their worse condition of mental illness. This is not the case of those with cancer or heart disease. People who abuse substances have been perceived as more blameworthy than those with mental illness. Attitudinal and emotional responses toward persons with mental illness, including beliefs about responsibility and awfulness, are likely to be prejudiced by acquaintance with serious mental illness. Previous research has found familiarity to be inversely associated with prejudicial attitudes about mental illness. Careless uses of diagnostic labels are most obvious sources of stigmatization with mental illness. In medication of mental illness, diagnoses are functional tools because they sum up the case history of a patient's illness and smooth the progress of communication among medical staff involved in treating the patient. When non-professionals handle these tools that are not familiar with the original definition of the term, these become less helpful in communication and misguide other people to label patient with negative phrases. It can also be injurious when used by even doctors if diagnosis and instructions are not communicated in a careful and restrained manner. It may flash incorrect information among general public and people may harbor negative attitude. The public and health professionals may have positive outlook and response to persons with mental illness, once they are told that a person has an illness about which they have prejudices. Innocent public take inputs from eminent person's attitude and attach stigma no matter it really the case is or not. The health systems that require medical decisions should be based on diagnoses and without having resources that would ensure appropriate protection of diagnostic information about the patient are also to be blamed. Being conscious of the power of diagnosis and of the labeling process might contribute to a sensible use of diagnoses, but removing the diagnosis by itself would not eliminate stigma. Psychiatrists and other mental health staff also stigmatize patients in some or other ways. I recent past, psychiatrists in some European countries and elsewhere were requesting longer holidays and a higher salary than other doctors because they had to work with mentally ill patients who are hazardous, while arguing, at the same time, that mental illness is no different from other illnesses. Psychiatrists are among those who recommend separate legislation for persons with mental illness to protect some people who are mentally ill, often unaware of the effect that such legislation might have on all other patients. They should certainly continue to do whatever is necessary to protect their patients; but it would help if they also advocated the notion that the rights and duties of people with respect to mental illness should be decided by their behavior and capacities in the same manner as for normal person rather than by the diagnostic label alone. Directors of institutions and hospitals in which people with mental illness are treated or find shelter rarely insist that their clients should be given an opportunity to participate in elections or other voting like other citizen. Mentally ill people are socially isolated. No one has seen that the installation of ballot boxes in mental hospitals where there is much awareness of the need to protect human rights and social rights of those with mental illness.
The harmful and ongoing stigma leveled at those who suffer with mental illness is so common that it can be easily identified if people have superficial look around. For many, of course, this identification does not require even a glance, as they are actively confronted with the innumerable effects of embedded, systemic stigmatization on a daily basis, ranging from slight deviations from common courtesy when encountering a person with mental illness to the reified division between mind and body evidenced by the ongoing lack of mental health parity in many health insurance plans. Such stigma is slowly deteriorating our social structure and inviting other dangerous problems. It is responsibility of intellectuals, medical professionals and government administration to look at the issue seriously and educate people to give fair treatment to such patients. One important point is that if public deal such mentally ill people with affection and realizing them that they are part of society, significant change will be observe. Mental patients need attention, affection and support from common people. Good response from people will definitely improve their mental status. We all have to erase stigma from our mental dictionary and must make positive efforts to enhance the level of mental patient in third millennium as a healthy society.
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