Stigma is a social construct that has been shaped by culture and history. It is a mark of difference, and the inevitable consequence is the devaluation of the individual or group (Heatherton, Kleck, Hebl & Hull, 2000). Historically, stigma is seen as a mark of dishonor and is frequently experienced by those with mental illness (Barney, Griffiths, Christensen & Jorm, 2009).
According to the World Health Organisation (2001), 20% of the world’s population will experience mental illness during their life. So, it is highly probable that most people will know someone in their social network with a mental health issue. However, whether people are prepared to readily share that information with others is another question. Indeed, Bharadwaj, Pai, and Suziedelyte (2017) found that individuals were more likely to underreport mental health issues compared to other medical conditions. Fifty-one percent of survey respondents stated that they had concealed their mental health problems for fear of facing discrimination (Beyond Blue, 2015).
The negative consequences of stigma are pervasive and enduring, given that the vast majority of people with mental health concerns experience discrimination (Thornicroft, Wyllie, Thornicroft, & Mehta, 2014), it is imperative to develop sound strategies to reduce stigma. This may be to educate, support, and talk about mental health. Beyond Blue (2015) suggest approaches that utilise both educational and direct contact components, which will help to foster empathy and build knowledge so that people with mental illness can feel safe to disclose and seek help.
If you would like to learn more about Mental health, please contact Australis College.
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