Discrimination and Empowerment in Social Work

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Discrimination and empowerment in mental health

In the essay I will be exploring elements of discrimination and empowerment. I will be starting by unraveling what is meant by discrimination and the effects it has on the individual or group, their culture, society and the possible structural implications. As this is an extensive area of study I will be looking at discrimination and empowerment in the context of mental health.

Defining discrimination can lead to many difficulties; even when naming the group of people who face discrimination can lead to pitfalls, as a group may be left out or it could fail acknowledge multiple oppressions. This is also true when defining what it means to be discriminated against as individuals will have different responses to any given situation

The literal definition of discrimination means to identify a difference, which could mean be a positive difference. Society is not made up of robots, all doing the same thing and understanding the world in the same way; we are all individuals and this difference is what sets us apart but also brings us together into groups of people with, for instance, shared beliefs. Nevertheless It is when an individual or group is put at a disadvantage because of this difference or perceived difference it then becomes negative discrimination which can ultimately lead to oppression.

To fully understand discrimination we need to look at what comes before it; prejudice mean to pre judge something or someone. Therefore prejudice comes from thoughts about a person whereas discrimination is the act. Although this is simplistic, for one’s understanding to develop we need to start somewhere. Prejudice can be seen as a learned way of thinking, we learn our attitudes to others from our parents and peers. This can lead to stereotyping, which categorises people with particular sets of characteristics.

Anti-discriminatory practice is a form of practice that set out to address discrimination and oppression, one of the ways is with empowerment.

Anti-discriminatory legislation is a legal framework to protect people from discrimination, at work, in education, as a consumer or when using public services. The Equality Act 2010 states that a person is discriminated against by another due to a protected characteristic; religion or belief; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership race, sex, sexual orientation. Discrimination in this context is seen in one or more of these four forms. Direct discrimination; where a person is treated more favourably than another in the same circumstances. Indirect discrimination is where a person is at an unfair advantage due to a protected characteristic. Harassment is where a person is being intimidated or bullied and victimisation where someone is treated less favourably due to a complaint they have made (or someone else) about being discriminated against.

Mental health problems in the UK are rising, this is most apparent with people experiencing dementia. (Gould 2010). It has been estimated that about one in six of the adult population will have a significant mental health problem at any one time (The Health & Social Care Information Centre, 2007) these problems include schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorder which effects 4 per cent of the population while more common mental health disorder such as depression, effecting around 16 per cent of the population (Gould 2010).

Thompson (2006) PCS( Personal Cultural and Structual )model is a tool used to understand how discrimination flows through and interacts between the client, their culture and the social divisions. If we apply this area of mental health, the P level could refer to the prejudice attitudes from society toward the client or the self stigma they may feel towards themselves due to this prejudice. The C level refers to cultural level of shared knowledge and cultural norms and how prejudice can become discrimination and finally the S...
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