“Stigma lives silently, but actively in the fears of others“(BPhope.com, 2012)
Stigma is defined as “endorsing prejudicial attitudes about mental illness leading to discriminatory behavior” (Fokuo et al., 2017). Stigma affects the lives of individuals on a variety of levels. Individuals with mental illness also face additional challenges; finding jobs, housing, and medical treatment. Interactions with the legal and educational systems require extra effort because of prejudicial attitudes endorsed by some professionals (Fokuo, 2017 & Gwarjanski, 2018). It is understandable that some people may internalize these stereotypes.
When a person agrees with these stereotypical thoughts and applies them internally, it is known as self-stigma. Self-stigma is often the root of shame, social isolation, and loss of self-esteem. Beyond public stigma, self-stigma anticipates stigma when it may not be present. People who feel stigmatized are less likely to look for work, make new friends, or ask for help, like seeking treatment (Oexle, Sheehan & Rüsch, 2018).
One of the biggest perpetrators of stigma is mass media. The way in which mental illness is framed in movies and on television greatly impacts how and what we think on the subject. A recent study on media framing theory confirms that the media can perpetuate or mitigate the stigmatization of mental illness (Gwarjanski & Parrott, 2018). According to another study, the media not only informs our stereotypes of mental illness but also exacerbates gender stereotypes as well (Yang, Tang & Bie, 2017). Commonly portraying males with mental illness as dangerous and unpredictable, and females as dependent and incompetent, the media has a profound influence on the public’s knowledge and attitudes toward mental illness and gender. Less often, the media portrays individuals with mental illness from a personal perspective. Stigma challenging stories that depict treatment success and recovery counter the stereotypical views of the audience. Research supports the benefits of positive messaging to reduce stigma (Gwarjanski & Parrott, 2018).
Education and contact are by far the two most effective weapons against stigma (Fokuo et al., 2017). Contact, in particular, has the power to dispel stereotypical views. The opportunity to get to know people with mental illness can effectively reduce prejudices about mental illness. Rose Hill’s community integration activities, including paid and volunteer employment, provides this needed contact in our local communities and has gone a long way to reducing stigma.
For more information about mental health stigma, contact Rose Hill Center today at 866-367-0220.
Bphope.com (2017) Kids & bipolar – Dealing with isolation and stigma. Retrieved from: https://www.bphope.com/kids-children-teens/parents-panel-kids-bipolar-dealing-with-isolation-stigma/
Fokuo, J. K., Goldrick, V., Rossetti, J., Wahlstrom, C., Kocurek, C., Larson, J., & Corrigan, P. ( 2017). Decreasing the stigma of mental illness through a student-nurse mentoring program: A qualitative study. Community Mental Health Journal, 53(3), p.257-265.
Gwarjanski, A. R., & Parrott, S. (August 03, 2018). Schizophrenia in the news: The role of news frames in shaping online reader dialogue about mental illness. Health Communication, 33(8), p. 954-961.
Oexle, N., Sheehan, L., & Rüsch, N. (January 01, 2018). Empowering people with mental illness in workplace settings. Psychiatric Services (Washington, D.C.), 69(4), p.494-495.
Yang, Y., Tang, L., & Bie, B. (September 01, 2017). Portrayals of Mental Illnesses in Women’s and Men’s Magazines in the United States. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 94(3) p. 793-811.