Mental illness can be considered one of the most apprehensive health issues in Australia as it has becoming increasingly obvious and deteriorated (Australian Institution of Health and Welfare 2010). According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008), in 2007, approximately 45. 5% of total Australian people experienced a mental health problem over their lifetime, whereas 20% suffered symptoms of a mental health problem over one year.
People who have been diagnosed with mental illness are among the most stigmatized, disregarded, discriminated, helpless, underprivileged and impuissant groups in Australian society (Overton & Medina 2008). To be specific, individuals with mental health problems are affiliated with twin challenges (Corrigan & Watson 2002). On the one hand, they are suffered by the symptoms and incapacity of disease itself (Corrigan & Watson 2002). On the other hand, they often cope with the stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination that emerge from misunderstandings of this disease (Corrigan &Watson 2002).
Negative conceptions and assumptions related to mental illness possibly as destructive as illness itself (Overton & Medina). Social stigma of mental illness remarkably restricts opportunities for individuals such as good housing, intimate relationship, and employment (Corrigan, Roe & Tsang 2011). More importantly, the mental illness stigma is one of the significant obstacles t o the speed of recovery and provision of care for people with this health problem (Sartorius 2007).
The aim of this paper is to provide a comprehensive understanding of mental illness related stigma, and discuss the possible sources and consequences of stigma for individuals who experience mental health problems through an examination of, and references to a range of relevant literatures, along with consumers’ experiences. The term ‘stigma’ was initially generalized in sociology by Golffman (1963), who used it to refer to a characteristic that is extremely dishonoring, disgracing and decreases a entire and normal individual to a stained and disregarded one (Mental Health Council of Australia 2011).
Contemporarily, stigma has been considered as the recognition of some identified people who have less worthy of respect than other people (Carr & Halpin 2002; Stuart, 2008). It is involuntary and often caused by a deficiency of understanding and fear (Carr & Halpin 2002). Stigma against individuals with a mental illness often consists incorrect and scathing representations of them as brutal, ridiculous and incapable, which can finally result in individuals having negative attitudes, behaviours and feelings of themselves (Overton & Medina 2008).
There are several possible sources that severely develop and reinforce stigma on mental illness such as media, health professionals and members of family. The mass media is not only one component in altering people and public attitudes to mental health problems, but it is also considered as a powerful and crucial source in disseminating messages (Chiroiu 2004). However, most mass media representations of mental illness often create the incorrect information displayed to the general public Consumers’ Experience of Stigma about mental illness patients and the events related to them (Babic 2010).
Media images have contributed the misperception and myths that such people are violent, incapable and even dangerous (Klin & Lemish 2008). Several Australian and international studies claimed that negative reporting in the media affects attitudes towards mental illness (Chiroiu 2004). As a result, people who seek information basically from media may tend to have more negative attitude about mental illness patients (Chiroiu 2004). In the other hand, these incorrect news stories have a significant effect on mental illness patients – reducing their desire to obtain medical support when symptom first emerged (Chiroiu 2004).
One of patients indicated that: “I was diagnosed with schizophrenia a decade ago and in my search to understand my new illness, the media offered me a skewed vantage point where it appeared schizophrenia was simply a licence for bad behaviour. Now, on the inside looking out, I recognise what an inaccurate portrayal this is, the exception rather than the rule. ”(SANE 2008) Mental health professionals are another possible sources that develops mental illness related stigma.
Healthcare professionals commonly use words that are stigmatizing and discriminated, for example, using ‘nuts’, ‘crazy’, ‘psycho’ to describe their patients, or use of disparaging terms to explain patients symptoms of illness rather than appropriate and professional medical terminologies (Sartorius 2007). Furthermore, health professionals may reject to provide care to those mental illness patients who have physical disease or other illness (Sartorius 2007). Mental health professionals are without exception in this unawareness of how their attitudes and behaviours intensify the development of stigma (Sartorius 2007).
Those diagnosed with mental illness resulted to a lost of self-confidence overtime contributes to a negative self-image which in turn does not present to their health and sustenance (Sartorius 2007). According to Mental Health Council of Australia (2011), there was approximately 35% of total mental health patients indicated that health professionals had decreased the patient in seeking self-help therefore as a result, avoiding treatment from health professionals in mental health facilities.
And nearly half of total mental health consumers complained that the healthcare professionals had changed their working attitudes and performances towards them once they recognised that they had suffered mental illness (MHCA 2011). One 26-year-old male patient quoted that: ‘‘What happened to me was that a nurse who was a therapist advised my girlfriend, whom I had met in hospital, to get herself a healthy boyfriend. I think it was a form of discrimination. Everyone has the right to be happy, even the mentally ill’’ (Switaj et al.
2012). The last major possible source of mental illness related stigma is members of immediate family. Many mental illness patients pointed that their family members often humiliate them and treat them with contempt when they are in situation of wrangle; and family members usually talk their abnormal symptoms and illness to damage their dignity and feelings, for instance, through using disparaging terms connecting to mental illness (Switaj et al. 2012).
Other forms of stigma generated by family Consumers’ Experience of Stigma members may involve arrogant and patronizing manners or ignoring their individual opinions (Switaj et al. 2012). For example, one of patient complained of his family members: ‘‘My family members prefer not to inform me of important family matters, for the fear of my mental condition getting worse. For example I was not told of my aunt’s death’’ (Switaj et al 2012).
The consequence of stigma on mental illness is pervasive and significant. In general, patients with stigma of mental illness often experience such negative impacts: decreased self-confident, limited access to health services, constricted life changes, and increased social isolation (Tsao, Tummala & Roberts 2008). More specifically, the impact of mental illness stigma has two main features: public stigma and self-stigma.
Both of them consist of three key elements – stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination (Corrigan 2004). Public stigma relates to the reactions of general public to those individuals who have diagnosed with mental illness and it mainly robs individuals’ social opportunities (Corrigan 2004; Link & Phelan 2006).
People with mental illness are usually hard to get suitable employment or seek good house because of employers and landlords are the two main prejudice components in their community (Corrigan 2004). One of patients wrote that, “I was in employment for 12 years, but when I took three months off from work due to illness I wasn’t allowed back to full time work, not even for a trial period” (Switaj et al 2012). Public stigma of mental illness is also associated with the criminal justice system (Corrigan 2004).
Criminalizing mental illness directly managed by polices rather than the mental health services, therefore resulting in a large number of mental illness people in prison (Corrigan 2004). The adverse effect of public-stigma is also found in the health care services (Corrigan 2004). People who are identified as mental illness are often unable to obtain deep and comprehensive physical treatment than people without this illness (Corrigan 2004). While self-stigma relates to the responses of people who are identified as stigmatized group and then turn this stigmatizing perspectives against themselves potentially (Rusch et al.
2005; Yang, Cho & Kleinman 2008). It greatly impacts mental illness peoples’ self-esteem, self-efficacy and confidence of future (Overton & Medina 2008). People who have been diagnosed with mental illness often sensitize stigmatizing concept and agree that they are depreciated because of their illness (Corrigan 2004; Whal 1999). One patient agrees with prejudice follow with stereotype: “That’s right, I’m weak and unable to care for myself” (Corrigan 2004). As a consequence, this reaction will lead to negative sense and results low self-esteem and self-efficacy (Corrigan 2004).
Low self-esteem can negatively impact the quality of individual’s life in several aspects, for example, it may bring persistent feelings of depression, anxiety, violent, shame or guilty (Corrigan 2004). It also influences individual’s coping skills with life events because they believe themselves hopeless (Corrigan 2004). Low self-efficacy may causes failing to perform appropriate behaviours in a specific occasion, such as mental illness Consumers’ Experience of Stigma people are unable to undertake work or independent living ability for people with mental illness (ElBadri & Mellsop 2007).
One of consumers quoted that “I don’t expose myself to a wider community of people” (Highland User Group 2003). To sum up, stigma has pervasive and significant impacts on individuals who have been diagnosis with mental illness as it robs people basic opportunities from a various aspects of life. In order to reduce the stigma of mental illness, health professionals must develop successful means in fighting stigma of mental illness – allowing their patients have basic human rights. The source of information on mass media has also to be relatively fair and objective, based on truth, rather than misconception or myth.
Appropriate and equitable sources on mass media tend to effectively control the present extent of stigmatizations of patients with mental illness, and thus improve their basic function and opportunities within family and society. Consequently, individuals, communities, health services and government must be integrated, in order to eliminate these negative perspectives and attitudes, and eventually promoting society to be better, fairer and healthier. Consumers’ Experience of Stigma REFERENCES Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, National survey of mental health and wellbeing: summary of results, October 2008, cat.
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