Mental Illness Stigma

1143 Words 5 Pages
Mental illness is something that affects the lives of everyone on earth. Everyone either has, or knows someone who has, a mental illness. However, stigma surrounding mental illness is very prevalent, and can cause disastrous consequences to those facing it. Stigma can be defined in many different ways. After reviewing many articles, I have arrived at the following definition: Stigma is a mark that is assigned to a person, resulting in that person being seen as lesser in the eyes of others (Link, Yang, Phelan, & Collins, 2004; Feldman & Crandall, 2007; Martinez, Piff, Mendoza-Denton, & Hinshaw, 2011). When a person is stigmatized they are seen as tainted, deviant, limited, and undesirable (Link et al.; Feldman & Crandall, 2007).
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A few are discrimination, shame, and secrecy (Byrne, 2000).
Discrimination can have dire consequences, and can even cause financial ruin. A “list of stigmatisers includes landlords, employers, insurers, welfare administrators, housing officers, universities, health care professionals, lawyers, prison workers, and teachers” (Byrne, 2000). A landlord may say “I don’t want a mentally ill person in my apartments,” or an employer may say “if I hire that person it will be a risk to my other employees.”If any of the previous people discriminate against someone with mental illness, there are many lost opportunities.
Once someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, they may be ashamed, and feel they are lesser. Stigma is partially to blame for this, particularly the separation into “us” and “them”. “When this separation is particularly thorough, members of a stigmatized group may accept stereotypes about themselves and view themselves as fundamentally different from and inferior to other people” (Link et al.). Katie Meko experienced this when she was first diagnosed, stating: “It held me back. I felt I had to [feel ashamed] because of what people say about mental illness” (L.M. Meko, personal interview, October 17,
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They will be “the decision-makers of the next millennium and will either initiate further social psychiatry research or make the same mistakes as their predecessors" (Byrne, 2000). If the younger generation does not work towards changing this, then the attitude towards mental illness may not change for another century or more. “Most studies show that older persons… and persons that have never known anyone with a mental illness are more likely to desire social distance than their younger, more educated counterparts who have had more extensive contact with people with mental illnesses” (Link et

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