Stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness constitute a significant public health concern, leading to poorer access to healthcare, poverty, reduced access to education and work, and increased comorbidity and mortality.
This has been acknowledged by mental health policies. For instance in the UK mental health policy for 2011-15, one of the six key objectives of the Government’s mental health strategy specifies the need to ensure fewer people experience stigma and discrimination due to their mental illness. Internationally, the World Health Organisations’ Mental Health Action Plan 2013 - 2020 specifies that people affected by mental illness should be able to participate fully in society and at work, free from stigmatisation and discrimination.
Although there is no generally accepted specific theory of stigma, it can be defined as ‘an attribute that is deeply discrediting and that reduces the bearer from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one’ (Goffman, 1963).
Attitudes held by health professionals, including those who work in and outside of mental health, can have positive and negative impacts upon patient quality of care.
In this module, we look at the impact of stigma and discrimination on the public and private lives of people with mental illness. We will also look at what are the active ingredients for reducing stigma.
We shall ask:
- What is stigma?
- How does stigma interfere with the quality of life of people with mental illness?
- What can people including psychiatrists do to reduce stigma?