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What is Stigma?

First, stigma relates to negative perceptions often fueled by lack of education about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. According to Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity, A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2001 stigma "refers to a cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate the general public to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people with mental illness." Stigma can pronounce itself in self-image. The Report also states that stigma leaves such a negative impact on consumers (individuals living with a psychiatric disorder) that some people have low self-esteem and less access to resources such as housing, employment, and even mental health treatment because of the stigma associated with the illness.

The Report goes further to examine the extent of stigma in Asian cultures where "mental illness is thought to reflect poorly on family lineage and thereby diminishes marriage and economic prospects for other family members as well." Here in America, phrase and thoughts such as: "Not in my backyard" syndrome, decreased interest in birthing children because of fear the illness will pass on to them, not employing people with mental illness, etc. these are all forms of stigma at its best.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that one out of four adults have mental illness. A 2008 NAMI survey found that only 24 percent of survey participants of the general public are familiar with schizophrenia. This explains why there is such confusion as what schizophrenia is and is not, for instance, schizophrenia is NOT a split personality, however, the term does mean "split mind".

Mental illness is widespread and does NOT discriminate against ethnicity, race, age, gender, economic background, and any other distinguishing factors. It is crucial that we address stigma and try to eliminate it before it perverts all societies to its most inhumane means of associating with and handling consumers and their families, friends, coworkers, and others.

Education and more exposure to mental illness can dramatically reduce stigma. Therefore, learning as much as one can about mental illness limits misconceptions. What are some ways an individual can advocate against stigma?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the following websites: Embracing My Mind, Inc., the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).


K.C. Jones said…
Stigma is indeed alive and well. I for many years did not want to have children, because I was afraid of passing my mental illnes to my children, which would probably happen, but I thought it would be the worst thing possible, which it is not. I still do not want to have children naturally, but it is because of other reasons now.
Rebecca said…
Stigma is our biggest problem.

Just saw a documentary about how people used to blame moms for schizophrenia & how stigma messed up treatment. Then, because of that blame, when they shut down hospitals community care never fully got set up. So too many people are homeless or in jail now. Sucks.

Film is called When Medicine Got it Wrong

Glad I found you.
John Cadigan said…
Thanks Ashley. I also have schizophrenia and made a film for HBO about the 1st ten years of my recovery - "People Say I'm Crazy" -

Its so important for all of us to "come out" about our disease.

There's a researcher- Pat Corrigan - who studied all the ways to combat stigma & found that the BEST way to change a person's perception is for them to meet someone w/ schizophrenia.

So no matter who you are, if you have the illness, you CAN make a difference by being honest with everyone you meet.

And - our other family members can make a difference by not hiding our diagnoses.

I applaud this blog and all you're doing to make the world a better place for us all
Valash said…
Thank you for your feedback, I love comments they help me grow.
John Cadigan said…
Sorry about multiple posts - Rebecca and I aren't used to commenting & had wanted to put our thoughts on your Stigma piece.

Are you on Twitter? I'm @pplesaycrazy and I just tweeted your blog.
Valash said…
I am not on Twitter yet, however, I appreciate the link!
ACDesign said…
Thank you for writing about a topic that is very near to my heart. I also couldn't believe that one out of four adults have mental illness (I mention this in my documentary). It could be anything from OCD to bipolar. The scary statistic is how many actually seek help for their mental issues. Those are the brave ones. I think that if we eliminate stigma then people will feel less ashamed to get the help they need.
Valash said…
I agree with you ACDesign, without stigma more consumers will seek treatment.

Also, I want to elaborate on something I mentioned in this post, internalizing stigma. At one point I internalized the negative perceptions of mental illness by wondering if I should even have children because of the worry of passing the illness on.

In reality, nobody is perfect and illnesses can be treated so why be ashamed? Even while dating I was hesitant about sharing my diagnosis, and to an extent still am private not because of the stigma, but in life you simply should not share all your business with everyone.

Having schizophrenia is nothing to be ashamed of. Again, one out of four adults have mental illness each year according to NAMI. That does not even include the children living with mental illness. Although there is no cure for schizophrenia yet, people can and do find ways to cope with the illness.

Personally, having this illness has made me stronger. At one point I lost my mind, however thankfully I got my mind back! Without having this diagnosis I would not have known about mental illness, would not have started this blog or Embracing My Mind, Inc. to share my story with others and hopefully provide hope.

Please continue to share your thoughts on stigma and on this post, and make recommendations. I appreciate you for reading.

Take care,

schizophrenia is a disease applied to social non-conformists... the paranoia results from a keen ability to see the underlying self-interestedness in human interactions... this paranoia is exacberbated by the negative behaviors directed to the paranoid by the group...

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