Discussion about stigma Essay Example
Discussion about stigma Essay Example

Discussion about stigma Essay Example

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  • Pages: 9 (2415 words)
  • Published: October 12, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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This chapter aims to examine the concept of "stigma" and its effects, focusing on society's unfavorable opinions regarding mental health, including both overall well-being and illness. Furthermore, it intends to uncover the underlying elements that contribute to these viewpoints and actions.

The following text examines the media's role in shaping attitudes and perspectives on mental illness. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (2001), approximately one-fifth of people worldwide experience mental illness annually. Despite its prevalence, negative beliefs and opinions about mental illness persist. This chapter offers recommendations for action, strategies to reduce stigma, and promote a more positive portrayal of mental health and illness. To gain a comprehensive understanding of attitudes towards mental illness, it is crucial to comprehend the concept of stigma.

Stigma is derived from the Greek for a grade branded on a sla


ve or condemnable (White, 1998). Goffman's (1963) seminal work on stigmatisation has, over the years, stimulated a great assortment of educational discussion on the nature, origins, and effects of stigma (Link and Phelan, 2001). According to Goffman (1963), stigma is a physical or psychological mark of shame that sets an individual apart from society. Three types of stigmatising marks identified by Goffman include, 'Abominations of the body, tribal stigma, and defects of individual character' (Goffman, 1963, pg 14).

Peoples who have physical or psychological marks are often devalued and dehumanised, which leads to their social position being corrupted by stigma (Goffman, 1963). Miles (1981) offers a definition that encompasses all aspects alongside Goffman, stating that societal reaction singles out certain properties, evaluates them as unwanted, and devalues the individuals who possess them (p. 892), as cited in Brunton (1997). The agony an

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loss of opportunities that typically accompanies a diagnosis of mental illness can be linked to observable psychiatric symptoms like hearing voices, decreased daily functioning, and reduced social performance (Corrigan and Wassel, 2008).

However, the reason for the stigma surrounding mental illness is the loss of opportunities and the individual with a mental illness devaluing their own self worth (Corrigan and Kleinlein, 2005). In this thesis, "negative" attitudes refer to discriminatory attitudes based on bias, stereotypes, or inaccurate information. Stereotypes are firmly held opinions learned throughout life (Stier and Hinshaw, 2007) and are discriminating views or images associated with specific groups (Corrigan and Wassel, 2008). Prejudice affects individuals emotionally (Stier and Hinshaw, 2007) and occurs when people in society share the same opinion about a particular stereotype and attach it to a group of people, resulting in negative intentions towards that specific group (Corrigan and Wassel, 2008).

According to Corrigan and Wassel (2008), discriminatory behavior can result from bias, leading to a specific group being treated differently and unable to access opportunities or having their rights restricted (Stier and Hinshaw, 2007). Negative attitudes towards individuals with mental illness can be demonstrated through physical and verbal abuse, workplace issues, or discrimination from service providers (Mind, 2010). These negative attitudes are partially formed through the language used to describe mental illness, often using derogatory terms.

According to Tudor (1996), violence is often associated with individuals who are commonly labeled as 'lunatics, crazy people'. Twomley (2007) also refers to them as 'schizos, wackos, psychos, monsters, beasts and lunatics'. However, it is important to note that not all violent individuals necessarily have a mental illness. Angermeyer and Schulze (2001) argue that the general

public perceives those with mental illness as eccentric, fear-inducing, impulsive, violent, and lacking self-control. Therefore, one could argue that individuals with a mental illness exhibit abnormal or deviant behavior. According to Becker (1963), deviance can be defined as 'any trait or behavior that deviates from the average population'.

The classification of mental unwellness as pervert raises the question of how extreme a person's behavior or actions must be in order to be labeled as such. This illustrates how societal regulations permit individuals to pass judgement and see others as different or perverted (Becker, 1963). Baumann (2007) further corroborates this notion, suggesting that an individual's perception of the world is shaped by established norms, rules, and expectations. Furthermore, Angermeyer and Matschinger (2005) assert that a diagnosis of schizophrenia, in particular, is stigmatizing and associated with negative stereotypes such as violence and dangerousness. Consequently, the medicalization of mental health proves to be unhelpful, as the diagnostic terms like psychosis can effectively bind individuals to the mental health system (Watkins, 2007).

Unlike Shepherd et al. (2008), the recovery model is portrayed as a way for individuals to take responsibility for their illness and focus on their strengths and challenges instead of just a diagnosis. The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health agrees with this viewpoint. Chapter three will provide an in-depth analysis of the recovery model. Without a doubt, the media has a substantial impact on shaping attitudes towards mental health and illness.

The media, which includes newspapers, television, and wireless communication, is a daily source of contact for the general population. Regrettably, individuals suffering from mental illness are frequently depicted as dangerous, influenced by tabloid media's promotion of "psycho-killers." These damaging

stereotypes have existed in movies for more than a century, as evidenced by Byrne's study "Screening for Lunacy" (2009). According to Byrne's research findings, the portrayal of individuals with mental health issues in films has become even more unkind and the depiction of crazed psycho killers has grown increasingly sinister. (pg.

4) The movie 'One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest' gained fame for its depiction of abnormal and violent behavior from someone with a mental illness. Its release 35 years ago reminds us of how influential stereotypes in movies can be in shaping societal perspectives. Likewise, 'Batman-the Dark Knight' focuses on schizophrenia to portray mental illness through violent actions, highlighting society's limited understanding and awareness of such conditions. However, there have been recent instances where films successfully present a more accurate and compassionate portrayal of mental illness.

The movies 'A Beautiful Mind' (2002) and 'Shine' (1996) both portrayed individuals with mental disorders. 'A Beautiful Mind' showcased a math genius diagnosed with schizophrenia, while 'Shine' focused on a talented pianist diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, these portrayals often romanticize or sensationalize mental illness, which does not accurately represent real-life experiences (Lott, 2006).

Besides film portrayals, the media's coverage of mental health has also been sensationalized and unfair. In a study conducted by MIND in 2000, it was found that 73% of individuals with mental health problems felt that the coverage of mental health issues was biased and pessimistic (MIND, 2000 cited in Rethink, 2006). Similarly, Chopra and Doody's survey in 1997 examined 98 newspaper articles on schizophrenia and discovered no significant difference in their portrayal.

In summary, 36.1% of articles had a negative tone, 56.7% were impersonal, and 7.2% were

positive. Tabloid narratives often use the term 'schizophrenic' to imply a connection between the diagnosis and violent events (Twomey, 2007). However, in reality, individuals with schizophrenia may exhibit such behavior due to drug use or a violent personality. It is crucial to consider all factors contributing to violence instead of solely attributing it to mental illness. The media frequently reinforces stigmatizing stereotypes about mental illness (Byrne, 1997). Nonetheless, if used effectively, the media can challenge bias and promote discussions that reduce the stigma experienced by those with mental illness (Salter and Byrne, 2000). Despite some progress made in reporting on mental health, there is still frequent association between a diagnosis of mental illness and violence. Encouragingly, The Sun newspaper was compelled to remove a headline regarding boxer Frank Bruno's sectioning under the Mental Health Act (MIND, 2010).

In 2006, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) enforced rules that banned offensive terms like 'schizo' and 'nutter' when referring to mental illness (PCC, 2006). This demonstrates the media's advancements in tackling mental health concerns and safeguarding individuals from harm. Becker (1963) argues that society tends to hold mentally ill people responsible for societal issues and favors punishment or persecution. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize the presence of various resources aimed at providing compassionate support for those with enduring mental illness.

Despite being an old concept, it is evident that services for people with mental wellness issues are still developing today. However, individuals suffering from mental unwellness are still marginalized and feared by society (Becker, 1963 and Watkins, 2007). When individuals face severe mental wellness problems, they are often perceived as intimidating by the public and may exhibit peculiar behaviors,

leading to police involvement (Taylor, 2008). During such instances, they may commit criminal acts and escape prosecution due to their mental unwellness at that time (Arbors, 1998 ; Taylor, 2008).

The public's attitudes towards holding individuals accountable for their actions, even if they claim to be "unwell," can be attributed to cases where people are forgiven for their behavior. It is crucial to hold individuals with mental illness responsible for their actions, just like anyone else. These negative attitudes towards mental illness can be compared to racism because both involve prejudice and discrimination. Despite advancements in combating racism, negative views and attitudes towards mental health still endure. These negative attitudes present a significant obstacle to the treatment and integration of individuals with mental illness into society.

The way individuals experience mental unwellness can be influenced by negative attitudes towards mental wellness (Bowers, 1998). These attitudes can also contribute to self-stigma, where individuals with a mental health condition internalize the stigma and view themselves as less valuable (Halter, 2004; Corrigan, 2007). As a result, feelings of low self-worth, loss of self-respect, and hopelessness often arise (Campbell and Deacon, 2006). Those who suffer from mental illness often perceive limited job opportunities due to their internalized negative attitudes towards the psychiatric system (Watkins, 2007).

If individuals are not provided with sufficient support in their journey to recover from mental illnesses, it is highly probable that these conditions will persist over a long period of time. This can be compared to the healing process of a broken leg; without proper rest, it will not heal correctly, just like the mind. By adopting a more optimistic perspective on mental health and mental illnesses,

people facing mental health challenges may be encouraged to flourish within society and evade any associated stigma. Sayce (2000) endorses this notion by proposing that being integrated into our community's social framework is crucial for our psychological well-being.

Most people want to believe they are compassionate and inclusive towards individuals with mental health issues (Ross and Read, 2004). However, discrimination still exists in everyday situations through subtle distancing, condescending exchanges, dismissive attitudes, or open hostility, leading to social isolation for those experiencing mental health challenges (Watkins, 2007). This may be because mental illness highlights the fragile nature of human beings, thus causing anxieties and fears within individuals and societies who recognize that anyone can develop a mental health disorder (Becker, 1963). In my personal experience, I encountered a striking example that revealed the extent of stigma and negative attitudes towards mental illness. While listening to a service user's account, it became evident to me that public attitudes towards individuals with mental health issues continue to pose a significant challenge for healthcare professionals.

Mary encountered a cab driver on her way to give a talk to students about living with mental illness. At first, he assumed she was a lecturer. However, when Mary explained her purpose, he abruptly became quiet and stopped talking to her. Mary found his response ignorant and unhelpful in dealing with the situation, which left her upset. This incident prompted Mary to examine the stigma associated with mental health, discuss the negative attitudes of the general public towards mental wellness and illness, analyze the reasons behind these attitudes, and evaluate the media's role in reinforcing and perpetuating these views about mental illness.

Reducing the stigma

of mental illness and promoting a positive image to the general public requires offering recommendations and addressing challenges. These recommendations involve education and public engagement. Firstly, it is crucial to educate the public about mental health and its prevalence among all individuals, both in schools and other settings (Murphy et al 1993; Penn et al 1994). Education is widely recognized as a means of influencing bias and discrimination (Corrigan and Wassel, 2008). Corrigan and Wassel (2008) raise an important question: 'If individuals had the necessary knowledge or effective problem-solving skills, would they be capable of overcoming public stigma and addressing associated concerns more directly?' (pg.

According to Corrigan et al (2001), education has limited impact on attitudes and is not typically maintained over time. This highlights the importance of continuous re-education to reinforce the message. To effectively challenge the public's perception, it is crucial to target individuals who frequently interact with those with mental illness, such as landlords, employers, GPs, and police officers (Corrigan and Wassel, 2008). Additionally, the media should comply with their code of practice to prevent stigmatization (2006). If any stigmatizing content appears in the media, people should voice their objections and emphasize that it will not be tolerated. As nurses, we should promote positive narratives about mental health in the media.

Last, it is important for the public to have more interactions with individuals who are experiencing mental health issues. This kind of interaction has been proven to have positive effects and can help in changing societal stigmas surrounding mental illness (Penn et al,1994; Pettigrew and Tropp, 2000). These interactions can be as simple as someone discussing their mental illness in a group

setting or colleagues becoming aware of a coworker managing a mental illness. The effectiveness of these interactions is enhanced when society views individuals with mental illnesses as equals (Gaertner et al, 1996). In a study conducted by Link and Cullen (1986), it was found that individuals who had contact with someone with a mental illness experienced significantly less anxiety around the topic of danger compared to those who had no such contact. However, a study by Murphy et al (1993) contradicted this finding and concluded that having contact with individuals with mental illnesses did not affect one's attitude towards them.

Nevertheless, it was established that individuals who acknowledged having knowledge about mental illness experienced a decrease in anxiety and fear regarding mental illness. The magnitude of mental illness within our society cannot be underestimated. As previously mentioned, one out of every five people suffer from a mental illness (WHO, 2001). We cannot ignore the consequences of stigma, and it is crucial for all healthcare professionals, especially nurses, to advocate for and collaborate with others in order to promote and safeguard the health and well-being of those under their care, as well as their families, caregivers, and the broader community (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2008). After discussing the public's perspectives and attitudes towards mental illness and mental health issues, it is now essential in the following chapter to examine the viewpoints and attitudes of general nurses. Many nurses will encounter individuals with mental health problems, particularly in emergency medical settings (a).

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