Mental illness has been steadily gaining attention and organizations have promoted more and more awareness on the topic of mental health. Though there may be more awareness, it does not change the underlying problem of stigma and discrimination. Stigma is not just an issue caused by the ignorance of society not understanding the severity of some mental illnesses, it is also caused because people have created a false understanding for themselves of just how painful mental illness can be (Kramer, 2016, para.
3). Individuals may be unaware to the severity because they compare the symptoms of mental illness to everyday emotions, this is what makes it so easy to shrug off the way a victim of mental illness feels and tell them to get over it (Kramer, 2016, para.5). This starts the endless spiral of stigma because society starts to think people with depression and anxiety are seeking attention or being dramatic and while viewing schizophrenics as scary and insane. Stigma follows everyone with mental illnesses and can five people false perceptions of the victims of mental illness. This leads to different types of stigmas like public and self-stigma to how it impacts the individuals suffering and even causing more damage to the individuals suffering from the most difficult of illnesses. Two types of stigma exist in society, public stigma and self-stigma. These two types can make the individual suffering go through even more torment with the fear of judgement and discrimination.
Public stigma is the way society views something negatively. The stigma of mental illness is widely endorsed in Western culture, research has actually shown that many citizens in the “United States and Western European nations have stigmatizing attitudes about mental illness” (Corrigan & Watson, 2002, para. 5). Stigma is less apparent in Asian and African cultures, available research has shown that stigma is not as severe in non-Western societies (Corrigan & Watson, 2002, para. 6). Media has given societies the false idea that people with mental illnesses are unstable and homicidal, are childlike when looking at the world, or even the cause of their own illness (Corrigan & Watson, 2002, para. 8). Stigma also gives people suggestions on how to treat people with mental illnesses which can be misleading and sometimes make it worse.
Another type of stigma is self-stigma, many people may believe that sufferers will take discrimination to heart and internalize it. A common belief suggests that individuals suffering may feel less-valued than people in society who don’t have any mental illness (Corrigan & Watson, 2002, para. 14). Research suggests that instead of devalued, some sufferers feel angry because of discrimination they have faced. This pushes those victimized by stigma to reroute their lives and try to change their place in the mental illness system. It drives some to seek the help they need and try to get better instead of sitting around and letting others belittle their state (Corrigan & Watson, 2002, para. 14). But there are some who internalize the stigma and it makes their condition worse, this is why stigma and discrimination should be changed and society should repair the damage that has been done by stigma.
Stigma also affects the lives of the people suffering, it can affect their everyday life and their work life. It can affect how they behave, think and even change how they are treated at work. Mental health can affect the behaviour, thinking, moods and perception of its victims. It can lead to behaviours that are confusing and sometimes worrying to family members, there can be repetitive actions that help to get rid of any anxiety a person feels, or even sometimes it is hard for individuals to even get out of bed (Capital District Health Authority, n.d., para. 1). A persons thought process can become unorganized or slow, even illogical or irrational.
It is important that whoever is affected gets the help they need to get better or even start to think more clearly (Capital District Health Authority, n.d., para. 2).
Mood changes are common for people with mental illness to go through, mood swings consist of having extreme highs or extreme lows, and they are prone to lash out more or even feel worthless for no reason (Capital District Health Authority, n.d., para. 3).
Mental illness can have also had an effect on an individual’s perception of the world, they may use their senses differently to experience life, and they may be sensitive to sound or even hear voices (Capital District Health Authority, n.d., para. 4). People with depression may see the world from a dull perspective. People with mental illness may pull back from social activities and isolate themselves from family and friends, feeling as though being alone is better than feeling judged (Capital District Health Authority, n.d., para.
5). On the topic of being judged, victims of mental illness in the workforce aren’t usually open with their illness out of fear of ruining their career or being judged by employers and coworkers. “The research suggested that younger workers are feeling the strain more than their older counterparts. Almost two-thirds of 18-24-year-olds said they had experienced stress, anxiety or depression in the last year, with the numbers gradually decreasing among older age groups.” (Landau, 2014, para.
3). Some employers may see this as a disadvantage for their company and dismiss employees who suffer from mental illness. Stigma has given some employers the false impression that people with mental illness cannot complete proper day to day activities or do the work a person with mental health can. This can lead to prejudice in the workplace or even cause the unemployment of someone suffering from illness. Stigma can already be hard enough on someone, with the added paranoia of feeling judged in the workplace or struggling with how to deal with the changes they go through in their everyday life it can make things harder and lead to more agony for the person with mental health in the future. Stigma is harder on people with more severe mental conditions, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder are two of the most misunderstood mental disorders.
Schizophrenia has a great stigma among society and is feared by society. Around 60 percent of mental illness victims say that the stigma sometimes ruins lives, they suffer in silence, fearing that they will be rejected by family, friends and coworkers if they find out (Hobbs, 2014, para. 3). Negative perceptions can have a direct impact on patients with schizophrenia, some internalize it and let it fester because they fear the thought of getting help and being judged (Hobbs, 2014, para. 7). Media portrays schizophrenics as violent murderers or sinister antagonists which doesn’t help the already harsh stigma (Hobbs, 2014, para. 9).
Violence is not a symptom of schizophrenia it is just a false perception that media has given society. Schizophrenia should not be feared like the media says, instead society should try to be more understanding of the illness. Borderline Personality Disorder is also an extremely misunderstood illness, more so than schizophrenia. Borderline Personality Disorder is not only stigmatized by society but also by trained professionals in psychology who sometimes turn down patients with the disorder.
John G. Gunderson MD and Perry D. Hoffman Ph.D. said that the disorder has been called “the leprosy of mental illnesses” and may be the most misunderstood psychiatric disorder of our age (Navarre, 2017, para.
8). “For many years, clinicians spoke and wrote in pejorative terms about patients diagnosed with the disorder as “the bane of my existence,” “a run for my money,” “exhausting,” or “treatment rejecting.” In fact, professionals have often declined to work with people diagnosed with BPD.
This rejection by professionals, which has seemed at times almost phobic, has spanned many decades.” (Navarre, 2017, para. 9). Like schizophrenics, BPD is described as crazy, dangerous, manipulative, resistant, or even malignant (Navarre, 2017, para. 11).
Truly the disorders need to be understood properly but instead, the individuals effected are treated like the blacklist of mental health (Navarre, 2017, para. 11). Stigma is hard on people with mental health, it can make them feel worthless or even push them to suicide in severe cases. Stigma can be public or self-inflicted, it affects people’s everyday lives and their work, and finally, stigma hurts people most with misunderstood disorders. In conclusion, stigma shouldn’t affect people as strongly as it does, society should learn to be more open-minded and accepting of the individuals suffering.