Author: Charles Frank

Understanding and Addressing Mental Health Stigma Across Cultures for Improving Psychiatric Care: A Narrative Review PMC

what is the stigma around mental health

Personal stigma can lead people to make unfair and incorrect assumptions, like assuming that someone with a mental health condition isn’t able to do certain types of tasks at work. This can unfairly affect decisions about what type of work to assign, whether to promote this person, or even whether to hire them in the first place. Likewise, structural stigma, also called institutional stigma, can make it hard for people to get support for their mental health in the workplace. It can also limit sources of support available to employees and make it difficult to access treatment. Self-stigma is defined as the stigmatizing beliefs people hold about themselves and what it means if they struggle with their own mental health. The negative judgments, messages, and discrimination people may experience or witness from others can lead to self-stigma.

It’s important to be sensitive to these differences—an approach that is effective in one region may be considered taboo in another. For example, research shows that people in Eastern countries are more likely to view mental illness as shameful or a moral failing than in Western countries. Asian mental health stigma can be particularly strong; for example, as many as 80 percent of psychiatric patients in China experience discrimination while receiving mental health services. Employers can be a powerful force in breaking the stigma of mental health—and the rewards for doing so are great. When employees can raise their hands to say they’re struggling, they’re more likely to get treatment. Over 80 percent of workers who receive mental health care say they’re more effective and satisfied at work.

How the stigma of mental health affects employers

Consider assigning an executive-level leader to oversee your behavioral health offerings. This person can help end mental health stigma in the workplace by encouraging employees to take advantage of your programs and measuring their effectiveness. People are more likely to get care if they feel the organization and their supervisor support the use of those benefits. Your words can impact other people’s beliefs and attitudes in a way that destigmatizes mental illness, or it can further contribute to stigma and mental health discrimination. While the stigma surrounding mental health affects everyone, some populations face unique stigmas as well as other barriers to mental health care. Some people with mental health conditions may interact less with others because of the negative reactions they experience.

what is the stigma around mental health

Overall, the literature suggests that stigma is a complex and pervasive issue that affects individuals with mental illness across cultures. The studies reviewed reveal that mental illness stigma is influenced by cultural beliefs, attitudes, and values, and can manifest in different ways across cultures. It is important to understand these cultural differences to develop more effective interventions to reduce mental illness stigma and improve outcomes for individuals living with mental illness.

Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination in Schools

Common mental health stigmas include misinformed beliefs about individuals and the disorders they cope with, fueling attitudes that lead to discrimination, marginalization, and lack of social acceptance. Each person’s experience of mental illness stigma is influenced by cultural norms and messaging. Cultural influences impact how people cope with and understand mental health symptoms, and whether they seek treatment. Without support from their employers, many employees may not get the treatment they need to be the healthiest versions of themselves. These attitudes have negative effects on individuals in need of mental health care and their communities. The more we understand mental health issues, the more we realize how society can become part of the solution.

Taken together, these studies highlight the importance of understanding cultural contexts when addressing the stigma surrounding mental health disorders and psychiatric care. The cultural beliefs and attitudes towards mental health disorders, summarized below in Table ​Table1,1, influence how stigma is manifested and the approaches needed to reduce it effectively. By acknowledging cultural variations, more culturally appropriate and effective strategies can be developed to combat stigma and improve mental health care across different societies worldwide. The Lancet report found that people affected by mental illness stigma experienced discrimination in various areas of their lives, such as social settings, school, work, and relationships. As a result, feelings of loneliness, shame, and isolation increased, worsening mental health conditions and increasing reluctance to seek help.

Individuals born outside of the U.S. reported lower rates of mental illness than U.S.-born Latinx community members. Others’ judgments almost always stem from a lack of understanding rather than information based on facts. Learning to accept your condition and recognize what you need to do to treat it, seeking support, and helping educate others can make a big difference. Discrimination may be obvious and direct, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or your treatment.

Even if half of a family experiences a mental illness, the whole family feels its impacts. Self-stigma happens when someone with mental illness applies negative public views to themselves. Often, they believe they are unworthy or should be able to control their symptoms through willpower. Stigma, as it relates to mental health, is when people who experience mental illness are viewed or view themselves in a negative light. All of the research discussed in this paper examines stigma at the individualpsychological level. For the most part, these studies have ignored the factthat stigma is inherent in the social structures that make up society.

  1. They may not want to publicly discuss difficulties at home, work, or within the family.
  2. About 35 percent of U.S. adults living with serious mental health conditions such as severe depression and schizophrenia go without treatment, often due to mental illness stigma.
  3. If you find yourself in a situation such as these, then you may have experienced stigma surrounding mental health.
  4. Awareness campaigns can be instrumental in dismantling misconceptions and fostering understanding of mental health disorders.

A person can adopt public stigma and hold negative beliefs even before developing a mental illness. Low self-esteem versus righteous anger describes a fundamental paradoxin self-stigma (64). Models that explainthe experience of self-stigma need to account for some persons whose senseof self is harmed by social stigma versus others who are energized by, andforcefully react to, the injustice. And there is yet a third group that needsto be considered in describing the impact of stigma on the self.

They may hesitate to apply for housing, get medical care, and participate in community activities. Common forms of discrimination include denying someone housing or turning down someone for a job based on their mental health. Mental health stigma can develop when inaccurate information, fear, and assumptions come together. Stigma can be broken down but understanding how these elements contribute to adverse outcomes is the first step. Consider a different way to make statements that use a term incorrectly or out of context if it could perpetuate myths or trivialize mental health.

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A stigma is a negative and often unfair social attitude attached to a person or group, often placing shame on them for a perceived deficiency or difference to their existence. However, two-thirds of the survey respondents believed there was still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, while almost half said they would not welcome a mental health facility into their neighborhood. And when others have a judgmental view of mental health, it can be difficult for people living with these conditions to build relationships with them. When it comes to mental health, intersectionality can play a huge role not only in someone’s overall mental health, but also in how mental health stigma affects them.

Best Ways to Address Stigmas Around Mental Health

The impact of stigma on individuals with mental illness is known to vary across different social and demographic categories, including gender. Research evidence indicates that the experience of stigma related to mental illness can be significantly different for men and women, and these differences can be further influenced by cultural context. Research has shown that perceived and experienced social stigma may also play a role in suicidality among people with mental health conditions. According to the literature, people who experience discrimination (even anticipated discrimination), social stigma, and self-stigma may be more likely to experience suicidal ideation. It’s a stigma, in fact, that affects millions of people around the world who live with mental health conditions. It affects everything from their social relationships and professional opportunities to the way they view themselves.

They are actually 10 times more likely to be victims of a crime, making them a vulnerable population we should be protecting instead of fearing. Mental health stigma refers to societal disapproval, or when society places shame on people who live with a mental illness or seek help for emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD. More than 50% of U.S. adults will need mental health treatment at some point during their lifetime. In addition, 1 in 25 are currently living with a serious mental illness, such as an eating disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or major depression. McLean develops free and reliable mental health resources for the public and professionals to promote healthy individuals and communities.

It can prevent people living with mental illness from getting help, fitting into society, and leading happy and comfortable lives. Mental illnesses in some African cultures are often attributed to spiritual or supernatural causes such as curses or possession by evil spirits. This understanding can contribute to high levels of stigma and deter individuals from seeking psychiatric help [19]. In Ethiopia, the belief in supernatural causes of mental illness has been reported, leading to the stigmatization of affected individuals [17].