Mental Health Stigma

Stigma is something judged by others as a sign of disgrace and something that sets a person apart from others.

When something like mental illness, disability or addiction, is stigmatised, the issue will often be avoided due to making people feel uncomfortable. People may even mock these things to make them less threatening.

For those living with mental illness, the stigma imposed upon them in society can lead to a lack of funding for services and public education, difficulty in finding employment, or in getting a mortgage, or even holiday insurance.

Ultimately, the silence and lack of understanding about mental illness encourages feelings of shame, and discourages people to seek treatment or even to admit that symptoms they may be experiencing may be related to a mental illness.

Why mental illness?

How is it that mental illness remains one of the few subjects that can be so easily dismissed by society, or worse, openly mocked? This is largely due to cultural beliefs about mental illness. Images and derogatory language in the media maintain beliefs about mental illness being incurable madness.

The tabloids regularly use words such as ‘psycho’ and ‘bonkers’ which shows a total lack of sensitivity to people with mental illness. This encourages the public to believe that schizophrenia particularly is dangerous, and that it’s acceptable to fear and ridicule mental illness.

Due to this lack of knowledge and the influence of stereotypes in media, the general public tend to view the mentally ill as unpredictable, responsible for their bizarre beliefs and behaviour, incapable of rational thought, and probably dangerous. When these beliefs filter through society at many levels it is no surprise that the mentally ill often find themselves socially excluded and isolated.