Living With The Stigma Of Mental Illness

1367 words - 5 pages

Life with a serious mental disorder such as schizophrenia and others, usually never falls within the boundaries of what could be considered ‘easy.’ Long treatment regiments, intense medications and sometimes debilitating symptoms are just a few headlines in the laundry list of hardships that befall those diagnosed with a serious mental disorder. Even with all this, they then must face society and its uncanny ability to stigmatize and isolate these people. While certainly not anything new to this group of individuals, stigma has shifted and changed shape to conform to the current standards of society, and what is ‘normal.’ Is the distancing of mainstream society away from the mentally ill due to ignorance on their (society’s) part or perhaps a fear of what is different?
Much of the research regarding stigma and mental illness found in the field of Sociology today centers on two primary theories, Goffman in 1963 and Scheff in 1966 (Corrigan et. al). The latter “labeling theory” says that when behaviors of a person come to be labeled as part of a mental illness, they trigger more negative stereotypes in the public perception. That is to say, if someone with a particular mental illness acts out, say violently, the public will associate such behavior as part of that mental illness schema. Similarly Goffman notes that those who are considered to be “normal” believe those who have been stigmatized to be “not normal” going so far as to think of them as almost not human. This leads so called normal society to discriminate against those with mental illness by showing unwillingness to help those people or even refusing to hire them for work (Corrigan et. al). By putting forth a wall of fear of what they do not know or understand, the ‘normals’ inhibit both their own education concerning the mental illness, but the opportunity to help those who suffer from it.
But what could attribute to this stigma? Approximately seventy-five percent of the population views people with a mental illness as dangerous (Corrigan et. al—2). Such a high percentage indicates that the majority of the population holds a negative connotation both about the prospect of mental illness, and towards the individuals who were unfortunate enough to contract the illness. A reasonable person would object to this, claiming that those people were making uneducated assumptions of the mentally ill population, which an informed person would be able to make the clear distinction between a dangerous individual and one who is not. A 2004 study performed by P.Corrigan, A. Watson, A.Warpinsku and G.Garcia, collected data from 161 people from a community college who were randomly assigned to one of three conditions concerning the education of mental illness; education about violence, education about stigma and a control where either mental illness or physical disability issues were taught or discussed. The results of this study found that those who were in the group “concerning education about...

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