Madhouses, loony bins, insane asylums, monsters, witches, and lunatics. These are the terms that haunt both the mentally ill and the facilities that provide their treatment. The stigma of mental illness prevents persons in need of treatment from seeking help for their mental illnesses. Stigma has been reduced throughout the years due to mental health support groups and out-patient care; however, stigma is still a very prominent issue today. Stigma causes those with mental illness to feel isolated and alienated, so they may harm themselves, or be afraid to find help. Stigma puts mentally ill patients in danger. Stigma must be eliminated to keep patients safe and healthy. Researchers must dissect the roots of the stigma of mental illness to reduce the discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping of the mentally ill. There are things that can prevent this stigma, such as changes in federal policy, public co-operation, and individual advocacy.
Civilizations have tried to cure the mentally ill since prehistoric times. Often humans believed that these people were victims of possession by demons, or were witches. Researchers at Northern Illinois University noted in an online article that “archeologists have uncovered skulls with holes drilled in them dating back as far as 8,000 B.C…the holes may have been drilled into the skull as a means of releasing ‘evil spirits’ that were trapped inside the head causing abnormal behavior” (Snitchler and Harris). This surgery, referred to as trephining, is still practiced by some African ethnic groups today.
In the Middle Ages, Europeans left the mentally unstable alone unless they proved to be dangerous. In the 1600s Europeans began to isolate the mentally ill. They treated them poorly and chained them to walls and left them in dungeons. After the French Revolution, some establishments reformed. Patients were given more freedom and more pleasant living conditions. However, in many facilities people were still mistreated. In America, the mentally ill were locked up with criminals and hidden from the outside world.
By the late 1800s, many state psychiatric hospitals opened, and mental illness attained worthiness of scientific study. In 1930, treatment of the mentally ill became more advanced. Common treatments included drugs, electro-convulsive therapy, surgery, insulin-induced comas, and the lobotomy. It wasn’t until the late early 1960s that more humane treatments were developed such as behavioral therapy and outpatient care (“Treatments for Mental Illness”). Although psychiatric hospitals are better maintained, treatments are more effective, and doctors are better qualified, today there are still many disparities in mental health care and many mentally ill people remain undiagnosed and untreated.
The aforementioned treatments of mental illness influence both public and self-stigma of mental illness today. David Vogel, Nathaniel Wade, and Shawn Haake, from Iowa State University, define public stigma as “the...