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Stigma Essay

By nadjajax Oct 21, 2014 1068 Words

Stigma is based by society’s condemnation of one’s beliefs, characteristics and behaviours which do not fit in with social norms. Mental illness has been stigmatised in a negative way as people believe they are violent, uncontrollable and incompetent people. Society’s understanding of mental illness is highly limited and there is a need to learn to understand what stigma means and how they can help to assist and influence the recovery process. The key aspects discussed are that of understanding stigma and recovery and identifying the influence stigma has on the recovery process. Many people do not completely understand how harmful and challenging stigma can be to the person suffering from a mental illness. It can contribute to extra stresses that can double the effect of their illness tremendously. Goffman (1967) defined social stigma as “the overt or covert disapproval expressed by a society of the personal characteristics, beliefs, behaviours, or conditions that are believed by that society to be at odds with social or cultural norms.” (Hungerford, 2012). An illustration of this is the challenges of stereotypes and prejudices that result from misconceptions about mental illness. For example playing them out to be violent dehumanises their sense of being as they become feared and ridiculed by society. While this is the case within society there is also self-stigma with the person suffering from mental illness turn against themselves with prejudice which adds yet another stressful hurdle to leap over. These two examples of stigma demonstrates how a person with mental illness can be robbed of opportunities that defines a quality of life whether it be with maintaining a good job, safe housing or having satisfactory health care. Equally important to understanding stigma is to understand the ongoing process of recovery. The Department of Health (2010) viewed from the individual’s perspective with mental illness that “recovery means gaining and retaining hope, understanding of one’s abilities and disabilities, engagement in an active life, personal autonomy, social identity, meaning and purpose in life, and a positive sense of self.” This principle of hope is the desired goal to attain and is the foundation for ongoing recovery from mental illness. The literature review on recovery (2009) wrote about key concepts and facilitators in the recovery journey. These concepts include individual responsibility where the person with mental illness is encouraged to take control and ownership of their life, Acceptance of mental illness as a part of their life which is an essential stage in the recovery process and includes the process of incorporating the illness and making adjustments, Hopefulness and optimism as being described to allow sufferers to look forward to the future and to have the ability to meet one’s goals and roles in life, it is also a process of healing and focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses, Identity and empowerment where one strives to build a positive sense of identity and having power over their own lives and decisions they make and lastly Advocacy where inheriting the concept of empowerment gives an opportunity for the person to voice their opinions and concerns. Another essential point is identifying the influence stigma has on the recovery process. The influence of stigma has seen to have very little, if any, positive influences to recovery and what is mainly discussed are the majorly negative views and affects towards the recovery process. The stigma associated with mental illness harms the self-esteem of many people suffering. For instance the media in many cases has portrayed mental illness inaccurately in a way of sensationalism which makes sufferers feel an immense sense of worthlessness, decline in self-esteem and stigmatization, yet in contrast, celebrities with diagnoses of a mental illness have started to speak publicly about their illness which has had a positive influence on reducing stigma. Complementary to this is that of the barriers to recovery. A few examples of what barriers are for people living with mental illness are self-stigmatization, expectations of family and friends and employment. The challenges of the relationships you have with yourself and others can become estranged and stressful for the person suffering and for the people in contact with them. In order for the person with mental illness to follow through with the recovery process they must have important factors such as, good relationships, financial security, satisfying work, personal growth and to develop a resilience to possible adversity or stress in the future, also by having people that support them on their recovery journey, someone who believes in them. On the other hand, there needs to be effective strategies to change views from public stigma. There are three approaches of public stigma which includes protest, education and contact. Groups protest inaccurate and unfriendly representations of mental illness as to challenge the stigmas they represent. Rena Scheffer (Addressing stigma…, 2003) wrote that “what is needed is a comprehensive health promotion framework, which includes, a social marketing strategy for opportunities for increasing contact with individuals who have or have had a mental illness, designed to raise awareness, encourage help seeking and promote positive attitudes.” Society as a whole needs a greater understanding of mental illness and to not believe its negative portrayal in the public eye and in turn try to reflect stigma in a positive way. In conclusion it is evident that the understanding of stigma is the disapproval of mental illness behaviours in society and the understanding of recovery is an ongoing process which leads to an outcome if foundations of support are present. Also the influence of stigma on recovery has been and still is portrayed in a negative way whether it is through the media or society’s misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of mental illness. It is apparent that by reducing the negative influence of stigma one can start to improve their self-esteem and live a quality of life. References:

Department of Health 2010, Principles of recovery oriented mental health practice, viewed 2 April 2014, < > Hungerford, C 2012, ‘An introduction for health professionals’, in Mental health care, Queensland, Australia, pp. 8 NSW Consumer Advisory Group 2009, ‘Literature review on recovery’, in Developing a recovery oriented service provider resource for community organisations literature, Sydney, Australia, pp. 23 – 24 Scheffer, R 2003, ‘Addressing stigma: increasing public understanding of mental illness’, in Centre for addiction and mental health, pp. 7

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