The RCCS Tidbit of the Month is part of Telecare's Recovery-Centered Clinical System curriculum to reinforce a culture of recovery in mental health service programs. For more information, click here.
According to the report of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, stigma is "a cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate the general public to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people with mental illnesses." The report also says, "Responding to stigma, people with mental health problems internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment."
Stigma perpetuates two significant myths about people with mental illnesses: 1) They are violent; and 2) They do not recover from their mental illness.
Both are false. Studies show that, at most, mental health status contributes a trivial amount to the overall violence in society (as we know, people with serious mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence). Studies also show that people who have mental illnesses can and do recover from their illnesses.
Stigma and discrimination can have a negative impact on someone's physical and mental health care. Health care providers may not provide the necessary treatments to people with mental illnesses. For example, people with schizophrenia who are hospitalized for reasons unrelated to mental illness are at least twice as likely as patients without schizophrenia to experience medical problems associated with poor outcomes, including death. One hypothesis is that a lot of the increased risk may result from inferior medical care. For example, studies have indicated that healthcare professionals might not take the medical symptoms of people with schizophrenia seriously, leading to a delay in treatment. Mental health care providers may act coercively or impose mandatory treatment on people with mental illnesses.
So, what can you do to fight stigma? One of the first steps is to acknowledge that we all harbor some level of stigma and judgment toward others or toward ourselves. Discussing the source of those judgments can assist in fighting our myths and giving us real information to bust those myths. Participating in NAMIWalks and joining others trying to educate our society and bust stigma and myths can be energizing and raise our hope. Programs hiring and supporting Peer Staff in their important and unique roles, also reminds us all that recovery is possible.
- Recovery and Nonviolence by Patricia Deegan, Ph.D.
- Be Vocal Documentary by Shaul Schwarz, Director, and Demi Lovato, Executive Producer
- Recovery Stories - Episode 6: The Stigma of Mental Illness by The Family Cafe
View any or all of the videos with your team. Following the video, have a group conversation using the following questions:
- What about the video stood out for you?
- What surprised you?
- Can you connect or relate to anyone in the video or any of the messages you took from the video?
- Did you find yourself feeling judgment or stigma about anyone in the video? Why do you think? View the videos with clients/members and have a similar