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It is important that facilitators keep an open mind about mental health issues and the mental health stigma attached to people experiencing these issues. Rather than thinking of people as having a mental disorder, or being mentally ill, the Erasing the Stigma of Mental Health Issues through Awareness series is designed to help facilitators to diminish the mental health stigma that surrounds people suffering from all kinds of mental health issues. Stigmas occur when people are unduly labeled, which sets the stage for discrimination and humiliation. Facilitators are able to help to erase the mental health stigma through enhanced awareness of the factors that activate the issues, accentuate the depth of the problems, and accelerate awareness and understanding.
To assist you, each of our workbooks in this series includes a module entitled Erasing the Stigma of Mental Health Issues to provide activities for helping to erase the stigma associated with mental health issues.
A stigma is extreme social disapproval of some type of personal characteristic or a belief that is not considered socially “acceptable.” Therefore, stigmas occur when people who have a particular attribute that is considered unwanted by society, are rejected as a result of the attribute. For example, people who experience bouts of moodiness are often judged unfairly to be violent, unpredictable, moody, up and down, sad, explosive, aggressive and /or unstable. These judgments can cause people who experience moodiness to feel devalued as human beings, ostracized from activities, rejected in social situations, stereotyped, minimized in the workplace, and shunned by others. People experiencing this mental health stigma of moodiness often feel extreme physical and psychological distress.
People who stigmatize and /or stereotype others bring about unfair treatment rather than help. This unfair treatment can be very obvious. For example, people make negative comments or laugh. On the other hand, this unfair treatment can be very subtle. For example, people assume that a moody person is dangerous or violent.
Mental health stigmas affect a large percentage of people throughout the world. Some of the more common stigmas are associated with physical disabilities, mental health conditions, age, body type, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, family, ethnicity, race, religion, financial status, social sub-cultures and conduct. Stigmas set people apart from society and produce feelings in them of shame and isolation. People who are stigmatized are often considered socially unacceptable and they suffer prejudice, rejection, avoidance and discrimination.
What Can Be Done?
Continuing with the example of “moodiness”, fear of judgment and ridicule about moodiness often compels individuals and their families to hide away from society rather than face criticism, shunning, labeling and stereotyping. Instead of seeking treatment, they struggle in silence. Let’s discuss some ways you can combat the stereotypes and stigmas that are associated with moodiness.
We appreciate the work you are doing with your clients to erase each mental health stigma they experience. We are always available to chat with you about your ideas and hear your suggestions for future workbooks in this series.