Abstract – The stigma attached to schizophrenia and ultimately all mental illness, literally ruins people’s lives. This article discusses the No Health without Mental Health strategy, released in February by the Department of Health and how it addresses stigma and discrimination and the Time to Change campaign which is led by Rethink and Mind. Recommendations are made as to how frontline healthcare professionals can actively support and educate service users who will suffer first hand from stigma and discrimination. Information about independent organizations providing support services for people with mental health problems is provided.
Keywords: Stigma, discrimination, schizophrenia, Time to Change, No Health without Mental Health.
The Silent Sufferers of Stigma… Schizophrenics
Stigma: a mark of disgrace or infamy - Oxford English Dictionary (2011). Schizophrenia: a mental illness that most mental health professionals deal with daily - Mental Healthcare Professionals. Schizophrenia: a dangerous and violent, terrifying mental illness of which sufferers should be avoided - The General Public.
To mental healthcare professionals, schizophrenia is one of many mental illnesses that most deal with on a daily basis. To the general public, schizophrenia is a greatly misunderstood and feared mental illness that is often portrayed by the media as a dangerous, all-consuming disorder that turns human beings into murdering, abducting, raping monsters with little remorse or feelings. The type of news headlines that are seen on an almost daily basis detail shocking and horrific crimes that have been committed and frequently link it to or blame it on a mental illness, more often than not, a form of schizophrenia (Mental Health Media 2011). It is common knowledge that the accuracy of the news reported is questionable and stories are recurrently portrayed in an emotive and bias way. It is the media and society itself that has helped shape this stigma which comes as a compulsory attachment to every patient who receives a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
The term schizophrenia has officially been in use since 1908 when it succeeded its previous name of dementia praecox (Weinberger & Harrison 2011). The new name was introduced to update and redefine the diagnostic use and criteria of the condition it described and to try and disperse the stigma and fear that had developed surrounding the term dementia praecox. Although from a diagnostic and medical point of view the new term was a breakthrough and revolution in the treatment of this condition, the change did little to target the public’s fear of the illness itself. Over 100 years has passed and very little has improved in relation to the public’s understanding of this illness. Discrimination is rife across all aspects of life for people with schizophrenia, particularly within employment, healthcare and within one’s local community (Time to Change 2008). It is not only patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia that experience discrimination and stigma but people suffering from any mental illness. This is both surprising and puzzling as one in four people will now personally experience a mental health problem during their lifetime (Mental Health Foundation 2011) and also due to the vast amount of campaigns that have been active over the last ten years, some of which will be discussed further.
Mental illness is something that will always be feared by the general public as it’s simply something most people cannot relate to (Social Care Institute for Excellence 2007). There are no instant solutions or quick fixes to end the stigma attached to mental health. Breaking down the prejudice, ignorance and fear surrounding mental health will require years of focused activity (Time to Change, 2008) and is something that has never been achieved before.
The aim of this article is not to dismiss the need for educating the general public and abolishing the stigma that is currently attached...
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