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02 Dec 2018

Stigma and society

Stigma refers to unacceptance and shame felt by people who display characteristics that society considers wrong. These characteristics may be in terms of racial or cultural identity, sexual identity, social status, physical appearance, disease or disability.

Stigma
Here are some insights on stigma

Stigma is of two types:

  • Social stigma. Reaction that the population have against people who suffer from mental illness.
  • Self-stigma. This type of stigma occurs when an individual gives in to society’s misconceptions about mental health. By internalizing negative beliefs, individuals or groups may experience feelings of shame, anger, hopelessness, or despair that keep them from seeking social support, employment, or treatment for their mental health conditions.

Differentiating against people with Mental illness due to stigma

When someone suffers from any kind of mental disorder and talks about it openly, they are often viewed from a different lens (usually negative) which distinguishes them from others which restricts an individuals from seeking help.

Media and movie’s portrayal of stigma

Media and movies have never been kind to mental illness, which has created a very bad impact on the same. Usually when someone in movies suffers from any form of social distress, they are perceived to be dangerous and harmful. The treatments shown are usually disturbing.

Using mental health adjectives in everyday lives

Common usage of words like “depressed”, “insomnia”, “bi-polar” and “anorexic” without any or little context takes out the intensity of the illness, thus it is important to restrain using these words as daily adjectives.

Making sure that adjectives of mental illness are not used as a daily word.

Due to the common usage of words like “depressed” “insomnia” “bi-polar” and “anorexic” without any or little context, it is not taken very seriously. When someone actually suffers from mental distress, it is not taken very seriously people around them believe that it is not a very big deal.

How stigma found its way in our daily lives?

  • Supposed treatment of Mental illness in early days. Stigma around mental illness was first identified in 5000 BC, individuals at that point in time drilled the skulls of individuals, (trephining), who behaved differently, to relieve them of the symptoms of a demonic presence, which is now commonly known as mental illness. Various cultures throughout our history dealt with people living with mental illness in many different ways with most of them shaming the person and disowning them along with their families from society.
  • How is stigma learnt?
    Stereotypes and stigma are usually learnt in two ways:
    • First type of stigma is learnt by cognition, and regular contact with the members of the group the stigma is formed against. One of the most common ways an individual develops stigma against mental illness is by regularly interacting with individuals who are experiencing it.
    • Second, type of stigma is learnt by our surroundings and learnings, like what the beliefs of elders and other authorities in the community are. This type of stigma is often not noticed, but is found in motivations, principles, and objectives.
  • Attribution theory. Attribution theory talks about how stigma is built in an individual. Stigma finds its way from an incident which may have occurred in the past, and the mind registers the emotion which was experienced during the incident, if the emotion experienced was accounted as negative it leads to a behavioural response which may be discriminating. In case of mental illness, individuals who believe that mental illness is controllable, or that individuals are responsible for it. Are the ones who are more likely to respond in an angry or hostile manner.

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