4. REDUCING STIGMA
There is no one way to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Shrivastava and fellow researchers provide an individual approach:
One of the key requirements for success of early intervention programs is to formulate anti-stigma measures. The lack of awareness alone is not responsible for keeping patients away from treatment, but it is the fear of being labeled as mentally ill. Families know that mental illness is an ‘illness’, but prejudice and shame interferes not only in seeking treatment but also continuing with it. Undoubtedly, stigma remains a potential ‘risk factor’ for mental illness. It is therefore important to address the issue of stigma at the individual patient level to achieve high retention rates in the program. (2)
This shows that stigma is reduced by reaching individuals and giving them help they need. Shrivastava believes that reducing stigma is necessary for decreasing suicide attempts and allowing more people to recover from mental illness.
To further focus on individuals, Cleary states that “Taking an open approach means that patients and their families would appreciate that they are not alone. With strong support from healthcare professionals, they would be better placed to build up the courage and confidence required for managing the illness and associated difficulties” (49). This requires healthcare professionals to play a large role in reducing the stigma of mental illness for their patients and the public. Cleary adds, “It is timely for us all to reflect upon and challenge our values and beliefs and think about how our attitudes may potentially contribute to a range of adverse outcomes for people with a mental illness and those whose well-being has been further threatened by physical health problems” (49).
In Corrigan and Rao’s article, in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, they suggest that public stigma directly contributes to self-stigma, and its elimination may be the key to fixing self-stigma in individuals with mental illness:
There are other strategies that people living with mental illness can use to cope with the negative consequences of self-stigmatization. A caution needs to be sounded first. In trying to help people learn to overcome self-stigma, advocates need to make sure they do not suggest that the stigmatization is the person's fault, that having self-stigma is some kind of flaw like other psychiatric symptoms that the person needs to correct. Stigma is a social injustice and an error of society. Hence eradicating it is the responsibility, and should be the priority, of that society. In the meantime, people with mental illness may wish to learn ways to live with, or compartmentalize, that stigma. However, curing it lies with the community in which one lives. Hence erasing public stigma may be a broad-based fix of the stigma problem. What we broach here are more narrowly focused efforts to help people who are bothered by internalized stigma. (467).
As for focusing on the mentally...