The Impact Of Stigma On People With Mental Illness Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Health, Medicine, Psychology, Illness, Disease, Mental Illness, People, Society

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/11/30


The Mental Health Commission of Australia reports that every three out of four people suffering from mental illness have experienced stigma. The stigma associated with the illness isolates the affected person from other members of the family and the society. Persons suffering from mental illness are often identified as belonging to a stereotyped group, and hence are prone to prejudice and discrimination (What is stigma, n.d). The social stigma attached with the condition makes the person feel shameful, distressed and helpless, thus worsening the condition and make it very difficult for them to recover. Many people suffering from mental illness face stigma and associated discrimination from families, friends, fellow employees and the society at large. Even public health professionals have negative attitude about mental illness and behave in a discriminating manner with the affected ones (Sartorius, 2002).The social stigma also affects the other family members of the affected person. Today, mental illness is a common problem affecting one in every four persons at some or other point of time in their lives. Most people suffering from mental illness will recover and lead normal lives if they get help in the early stage of the illness. Discrimination and stereotypes associated by the society to mental illness are due to the belief that mentally ill people are generally violent and dangerous. The fact is that they are harmless to others, but more harmful to themselves if they do not get proper attention from the family and the society. Thus, the responsibility of reducing the impact of social stigma on mentally ill people lies in the hands of the family members, health professionals and the society by providing timely unconditional support and help to the affected persons.

Consequences of Social Stigma

The stigma of mental illness gives a spoiled identity to the individual that may induce the person to feel a low self-esteem, and perceive others as hostile and negative. The longing to avoid being labeled negatively motivates the victim to conceal his challenges from others and avoid treatment. Corrigan (2004) reported increase in dropout cases from treatment besides low adherence to treatment of mental illness. The stigma of mental sickness encompasses three basic constructs: Prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination. Prejudice involves the degree of consent someone expresses in having a good interpersonal relationship with a person suffering from a mental illness. Typical stereotypes associated with the mentally challenged include a belief that a mentally sick person may be a constant threat to others in the society in addition to the opinion that mental illness is a result of a person’s behavior or flaw in character. Another stereotype warranting serious concern is the belief that people suffering from mental illness would never recover, and treatments are ineffective. Discrimination is the end result of prejudices and stereotypes associated with the mentally sick. Discrimination includes exclusion of such persons from the society and negative attitude and challenging mentality of the society on their abilities. For example, there are laws, practices and policies that treat people with mental illness unfairly through restricting their rights to hold public offices (Hemmens et al., 2002).

Reducing the Stigma

The basic strategy of stigma reduction is countering the stereotypes and prejudices attached with the mentally ill through educating the public about the causes leading to mental illness, its treatment and the day-to-day life experiences of persons with mental health problems. Trainings need to target the key groups like the employers, health professionals, policy makers, the government officials and the media. Encouraging personal interactions with the affected persons tend to have a significant impact on attitudinal change of others toward the mentally sick. Promoting direct contact rather than through videos or telephone is crucial in reducing the stigma. The wrong belief that mental illness is incurable and the affected people can never lead normal lives can be overcome by wide publicity through the media and celebrity endorsements. Bill Clinton once famously said that mental illness is not a case to be ashamed of, but the bias and stigma shame everyone. Throughout history many people with various kinds of mental challenges continued to defeat the condition and led successful and inspiring lives. Even today, many of the living legends like famous British Author J. K Rowling have openly discussed their past life in which they were victims of depression and suicidal thoughts. Many great leaders, authors, artists, composers, scientists and Hollywood stars suffered serious mental trauma and illness at some stage in their lives. To name a few the list includes, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemmingway, Charles Dickens, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo, John Keats, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Isaac Newton and, Vivien Leigh (People with mental illness, n.d). These inspiring lives have in fact proven beyond doubt that mental illness is only a temporary state of mind and the affected persons can still lead a normal life besides contributin a lot to the society.
Often the media portrays the mentally ill as dangerous by publishing sensational news of murders and rapes committed by people with mental depression, which still fuels the social stigma attached with the illness. Even famous comedians make fun of the mentally challenged by taking inspiration from the disability of the victims and converting the same to humor for personal glory. Crazy and psycho are the common surnames the society gives to people with mental illness. Media can be a helping hand to root out the social stigma and stereotypes associated with the illness by portraying the other side of the challenged people. Along with the media educational institutions can also play a vital role in wiping away the identities society gives to the affected people. Awareness among youngsters helps the new generation accept the affected people with an open heart. Also, helping the mentally ill to get jobs, treating them with respect, showering unconditional love and encouraging them to continue with the treatment can help the mentally ill recuperate fast (Fight stigma, n.d).
Professionals associated with mental health play a key role in reducing the social stigma of mental illness. In addition to directly treating them they have the responsibility of giving the right information about the patient’s condition to relatives and friends. Many a time, the attitude of people toward the mentally ill is shaped by the way they are treated by the physicians and other mental health workers. A mentally ill person deserves due respect whether he is ill or not. Hence it is important that the health professionals too talk and behave with a mentally ill the way they would talk to him if he were a normal person.


It is reported that only one in every five person affected by mental illness receives proper continuous treatment. The social stigma and stereotypes associated with the condition deters the victims from seeking medical help and counseling at an earlier stage. Negative attitude of the society toward the mentally sick people is attributed more to the fear and lack of proper knowledge about the illness. A better understanding about the nature of the illness and the remedial measures encompassing a personal care and understanding of the affected person rather than medications and therapies is the key to save a mentally ill person from the stigma awaiting him or her to make the condition still worse. In short, the society, rather than welcoming them back once they are cured of the condition, should accept them as such as normal human beings to do away with the stigma associated with mental sickness. Thus it is the behavior of the family members, friends, colleagues and health workers toward the affected person that matters a lot to give the affected person hope to lead a meaningful life.


Corrigan, P. W., "Target-Specific Stigma Change: A Strategy for Impacting Mental Illness
Stigma," Psychiatric rehabilitation journal, Vol. 28, No. 2, 2004, pp. 113–121.
Fight stigma stamping out the stigma of mental illness. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2015, from
Hemmens, C., Miller, M., Burton, V. S., Jr., and Milner, S., "The Consequences of Official Labels: An Examination of the Rights Lost by the Mentally Ill and Mentally Incompetent Ten Years Later," Community Mental Health Journal, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2002, pp. 129–140.
People with mental illness enrich our lives. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://
Sartorius, N. (2002). Iatrogenic stigma of mental illness Begins with behaviour and attitudes of medical professionals, especially psychiatrists. British Medical Journal, 324(7352), 1470-1471. Retrieved from
What is stigma? (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from /mental_illness_and_health/mh_stigma.aspx

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