Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination


Stigma and Discrimination

If you want to learn more about mental illness, and discuss ways of responding to stigma and discrimination in your life or someone else's...

Contact: Like Minds Taranaki
Tel: 06 759 0966

 

"One of the biggest barriers to recovery is discrimination.

That is why stopping discrimination and championing respect, rights and equality for people with mental illness is just as important as providing the best treatments and therapies."

Blueprint for Mental Health Services in New Zealand, November 1998.

"We support a public awareness campaign - it is a must. It is fundamentally wrong that a vulnerable group in our society should be continually subjected to the comments and actions of those who possess an outcast mentality...

We are optimistic enough to believe that a well-informed New Zealand public will then realise that (people with mental illness) are people whom we should nurture and value".

The Mason Report 1996.

STIGMA & DISCRIMINATION

When we think about stigma and discrimination, for the most part, we think of the stigma and discrimination portrayed by others towards people with a mental and/or physical disability.    It can so often be hurtful and life changing.

'Stigma' refers to a set of attitudes and beliefs
held by individuals and society at large that are based on social values.
'Stigma' is like a 'stamp of disapproval' carried by an individual,
like the mark of shame and disgrace.  

Too often 'stigma' leads to 'discrimination'.

'Discrimination' is where you consider something is wrong with someone
or a group of people that won't change
meaning that they are less worthy than others and less entitled than others. 

Therefore they are treated differently.

Discrimination has people with a mental and/or physical illness evicted from their place of residence, fired from their jobs, distanced and treated with shame by their friends, family and colleagues - and ostracised from their communities. Community based stigma and discrimination is difficult for an individual to combat.   But as individuals, we can learn to recognise stigma and discrimination and, if sufficiently confident, challenge it, whenever and wherever it occurs.

Is it any wonder then that when people are struggling to fight the discrimination they face in their own communities - that many people experience difficulty in dealing with the self or internalised discrimination going on in their own heads?

INTERNALISED (SELF) STIGMA & DISCRIMINATION

Self or internalised stigma occurs when we find ourselves as part of a group that is stigmatised by society and then apply that stigma to ourselves. This is particularly prevalent in people living with an experience of mental illness who apply the negative sterotypes common in society to themselves.

This results in the attitude: I believe that something is wrong with me that won't change, which means I am less worthy than other people, less entitled than other people, and less capable than other people.

Self-stigma can be defined as 'negative thoughts towards yourself
that are based on the idea that you are different from others,
that you are less deserving than others.'

Self-discrimination is behaviour that arises from this attitude, eg. you stop yourself applying for a job because you feel you do not warrant such a job or would not get it even if you did apply. Perhaps you may think that "I don't want to be a nuisance" or "I will never be accepted there", and so you may choose to not avail yourself of opportunities you may be fully entitled to.

And so - many people not only need to combat societal stigma and discrimination, but also their own. Self-stigma and self-discrimination is a more personal challenge. When we learn to recognise when we are creating our own self-stigma and discrimination and change the habit of putting ourselves down, whether to ourselves or to others, we are free to take pride in our skills, experiences and achievements.

It is vital that we learn to believe in ourselves and in our ability to counter negative stereotyping, whether it is in our head or someone else's.

Discrimination is an important obstacle to recovery. This is why it is so important to combat the stigma and discrimination that occurs on a daily basis in our communities.   But that is only part of the problem.   We also need to ensure that health authorities and professionals work harder towards helping people combat self-stigma and self-discrimination. Discrimination is overcome with awareness through education. This is just as important, perhaps more important, than the provision of the best and most expensive therapies and medications available.

The price of self and internalised stigma is too high and too damaging to be left to chance.

Breaking the cycle of stigma and discrimination means:

  • Celebrating and accepting difference
  • Disclosure assists in 'normalising' mental illness
  • Promoting & instilling hope for maximum recovery
  • Promoting positive role models
  • Promoting Peer Support and Advocacy
  • Promoting Service User leadership at all levels
  • Promoting empowerment for all Service Users
  • Affirming Human Rights for all Service users
  • Recognising contributions made by Service Users
  • Challenging stigma and discrimination wherever and whenever it occurs, within society or within ourselves.

 

And so people with a mental and/or physical illness not only need to combat societal stigma and discrimination, but also their own.

The Mental Health Foundation is saying, "believe in yourself and your own ability to fight negative stereotyping, whether it is in your head or someone else's".

This is why it is so important to combat the stigma and discrimination that occurs on a daily basis in our communities. But that is only part of the problem. We also need to ensure that health authorities and professionals work harder towards helping people combat self-stigma and self-discrimination. This is just as important, perhaps more important, than the provision of the best and most expensive therapies and medications available.

The price of self and internalised stigma is too high and too damaging to be left to chance.

Like Minds Taranaki gratefully acknowledge the financial support of this website
by The Ministry of Health

Feedback is always welcome
Like Minds Taranaki, 06-759-0966, email: likemindstaranak@likemindstaranaki.org.nz

or on our Facebook page at:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Like-Minds-Taranaki/129833373781933

 

 



Taranaki Mental Health Sector

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