Mental illness is a common problem in the US where it is estimated that one out of five US adults live with mental illness. The number was approximated to be 45 million in 2016. Only a half of people with mental illnesses receive treatment. Mental illness describes a broad range of mental health problems such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, depression, psychotic disorder, and many others. Most people are likely to experience mental illness from time to time. People with mental illnesses are unable to function normally since these disorders affect mood, thinking, and behavior. Mentally ill persons suffer due to the symptoms and disabilities from their illness as well as stereotypes and prejudice that are as a result of misconceptions regarding mental illness. People who have mental illness are denied the chance to have a good life which is defined by having a good job, high-quality health care, safe housing, and an association with a varied group of persons. Mental illness stigma leads to discrimination of persons with mental illness which worsens the condition. This paper will assess, identify, elaborate and analyze an example of stigma within a news article and use two articles to support it.
The news article "Bipolar Disorder: A story of surviving and healing" by Kathy Brandt provides a clear explanation of how mental illness stigma affects people in society. According to the article, most people with mental illness are misunderstood in society. David who suffered from psychotic disorder ended up in jail instead of being taken to hospital for treatment. During a psychotic episode, he entered into a store and picked a Buddha and walked away with it without paying and this constituted to a felony. This psychotic individual stayed in jail for over one year. His parents' efforts to transfer him to a state hospital was in vain for that duration. His behavior in jail was clear that he was psychotic, but he had not been taken to hospital for treatment and instead he was being punished for his illness. The justice system is unfair to people with mental illness since such people are ill-treated while they are incarcerated. According to the article, David was charged and imprisoned in spite of his condition (Brandt 2).
Further, he was subjected to solitary confinements regularly due to his behavior instead of being taken to the hospital. This situation shows that the police are unable or unwilling to identify people with mental illness resulting in discrimination and punishment to these people. The justice and mental health system failed to detect that David had a mental issue and therefore worsened his condition since the individual was no longer able to call his mother, he was in fear, disoriented and psychotic. According to the article, about 20-30 percent of the prison population are people with mental illness (Brandt 2).
Mentally ill people face two types of stigma which include public and self-stigma. Public stigma is the response that the public has towards mentally ill people. On the other hand, self-stigma is the prejudgment that mentally ill people have against themselves. The stigma against mentally ill people is common in western countries. The attitudes towards mental illness are the same among the uninformed and well-trained professionals (Corrigan and Amy 16). Stigma is believed to be less manifest among the Asian and the African societies. Stigma seems to be absent in Islamic cultures. Even though stigma in western cultures seems to be less severe, the lack of differentiation between psychiatric and non-psychiatric illness is a serious problem.
Some of the most common misconceptions are that mentally ill people should be feared and excluded, are irresponsible and unable to make decisions, and they need to be helped like children. People with mental illness are likely to face stigma more than people with physical disabilities. Additionally, people who have severe mental illness are seen as prostitutes, criminals, and drug addicts. A study that was done indicated that most respondents were unlikely to feel pity for a mentally ill individual. On the contrary, they were likely to react with anger to a person with a psychiatric disorder and therefore feel that the people did not deserve help. Public stigma or discrimination is manifested in the following areas: failing to help, forced treatment, avoidance and segregated institutions. The general public believes that people with mental illness should be forced to receive treatment. They also avoid to interact with mentally ill people and withhold any help for them. The public also believes that these people should be put in segregated institutions (Corrigan and Amy 16).
Self-stigma occurs when a person with a psychiatric disability accepts the stigmatizing ideas and therefore believe that they are less valued because of their illnesses. Their self-esteem and confidence are affected greatly. On the other hand, some people become virtuously angry due to the stigma they face. According to the article by Brandt, David seems to be a person who was angered by the system which put him in solitary confinements due to his illness. David rebelled by throwing a cafeteria tray at a guard (Brant 1). Public stigma can be addressed by educating the public about mental illness, allowing them to interact with mentally ill people and protesting so that negative media messages against mentally ill people can be withdrawn.
Americans have more knowledge regarding mental illness today than a decade ago due to psychology being taught in school, more media attention as well as increased public literacy. However little has been done to address the attitude of the public towards people with mental illness (Hinshaw 183). There is a tendency of the public to have no desire to have social contact with mentally ill persons. Additionally, many people today associate mental illness with violence. Most Americans acknowledge that some mental illnesses are caused by neurobiological causes. However, their attitudes and stigma do not reduce due to this understanding rather it increases pessimism and the yearning for social distance. Stigma is a brand that is associated with a devalued group of people which results in low social status and disgrace. People with mental illness mostly internalize the negative attitudes from the public and therefore develop self-stigma that causes them to reduce help-seeking activities.
Further, the families of mentally people are also stigmatized in society. A person who has a history of mental illness is mostly not considered as a potential marriage partner in most societies around the world. Further, mentally ill individuals are not allowed to hold public office or serve on a jury, to have custody of their children and are also denied the right to vote in some societies. Humanizing severe mental disorders is a strategy that can help remove the stigma that people have against them (Hinshaw 184).
In conclusion, mentally ill persons face great stigma from the public which results in self-stigma. Stigma is toxic since it affects every aspect of a person's life. Mental illness is associated with negative things in society such as violence, prostitution, criminality, and others. Stigma makes it impossible for mentally ill persons to receive treatment, to have a good life and to interact with people. The public needs to be educated about the harmful effects of stigma against mentally ill people to address this problem in society and to allow these individuals live their lives fully.
Brandt, Kathy. Bipolar Disorder: A Story of Surviving and Healing, 2018, http://kathybrandtauthor.com/.
Corrigan, Patrick W and Amy C Watson. "Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness" World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) vol. 1,1 (2002): 16-20.
Hinshaw, Stephen P. "Stigma, humanization and mental health: the next frontier" (2018): 183-186
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