The label of mental illness has been long recognized as one of the most powerful stigmas. People with severe mental illness (SMI) continue to find themselves being denied full participation in family, social activities, and productive employment. Some of these problems stem from cognitive and/or behavioural dysfunction which results from mental illness. Yet, other missed goals represent the effects of stigma and discrimination. People with SMI are often unfairly seen as dangerous, incompetent and irresponsible, which causes isolation, homelessness and economic decline. Stigma represents a significant problem for people living with SMI such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and social phobia. Stigma can be experienced through either public stigma or self-stigma. Public stigma represents the negative reactions and discrimination persons with SMI receive from other members of society, and self-stigma when the individual holds prejudicial beliefs about themselves. The focus of this paper is on public and self-stigma, along with the myths that hinder recovery and promote social isolation of people experiencing SMI. The negative effects of labeling and disempowerment will also be addressed. On the positive side, examples of anti-stigma principles and programs are provided as they relate to intrapersonal, interpersonal and governmental strategies.
|Keywords:||Severe Mental Illness, Public Stigma, Self-stigma, Recovery, Discrimination|
Professor, School of Intervention Services, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA