The stigmatization surrounding mental illness began over 100 years ago, before psychological and social sciences became research fields. There are all different types of stigma — such as public stigma, social stigma, and label avoidance — although any kind of stigma is likely to cause harmful effects. Stigma not only produces feelings of defeat for those struggling with their mental health but also produces false beliefs and emotions toward the stigmatized person.
What Is Stigma?
Stigma involves negative attitudes or discriminatory behavior toward someone based on a certain component of their identity. Stigmas are stereotypes that cause certain individuals to experience greater disadvantages in their own life.
Stigmas typically develop from a combination of a lack of awareness, lack of education, or lack of perception. People create stigmas from their own subjective observations without having enough understanding about their own life experiences to accurately explain their opinion.
When someone makes a negative remark about mental illness or mental health treatment, they are engaging in discrimination as an effect of stigma. Sometimes, stigmas happen to be more subtle, such as someone avoiding a person with mental illness because they assume that the person is unstable or dangerous. Stigmas cause extreme damage to our understanding of the world around us, and especially to our own self-esteem and self-worth.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a serious mental condition that interferes with all aspects of a person’s ability to function. It affects how a person thinks, feels, behaves, and relates to others. Most individuals that have schizophrenia experience a lost sense of reality, which can cause intense distress for not only the individual but also for their loved ones.
Schizophrenia is often diagnosed between late teens years into early adulthood. It is more prevalent in males, and symptoms typically emerge earlier in males.
Schizophrenia has been associated with negative stigma because the condition is characterized by:
- Psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder
- Negative symptoms, such as loss of motivation, social withdrawal, inability or difficulty showing emotions, or reduced speaking
- Cognitive symptoms, such as difficulty with attention, concentration, decision-making, or memory
Schizophrenia, alongside all mental health conditions, is a brain illness. This causes disruptions in typical thought and behavior patterns. For example, a person with schizophrenia may hear voices when no one is around or believe that someone is trying to hurt them even though there is no reason to believe that.
The condition of schizophrenia ranges in intensity and severity. For instance, some people have mild schizophrenia and learn how to challenge their false delusions. Typically, you would never guess that these people are dealing with internal struggles of schizophrenia, as these individuals come off as “normal.” Severe cases of schizophrenia can make it nearly impossible for a person to keep a job or take care of themselves.
Addressing the Schizophrenia Stigma
When a person does not understand the true nature of schizophrenia, they come to stigmatize it. Some stigmas include:
- The idea that these individuals are violent or dangerous
- The idea that these individuals are flawed, especially for those that believe the stigmas said about their own condition
- The idea that these individuals will not respond to treatment
- The idea that these individuals are unable to have intimate social relationships
Stigma causes numerous harmful effects. The most significant impact that stigma has on those with schizophrenia is that such harmful ideology can, and does, trigger relapse in those working their way in their recovery journey. Stigma can also worsen symptoms entirely, especially if someone is already struggling with the thoughts in their own mind. What is said in society or on social media about mental health, especially in regard to schizophrenia, sticks in the minds of people that are directly affected by the condition.
Stigma also keeps individuals from seeking out or accessing treatment during the times that they may need it most. They fear the diagnosis and fear the recovery battle merely because of the harmful, false stigmas that develop from lack of awareness and education.
How to Work Through Stigma
It is essential that communities continue to work to disassemble the stigmas surrounding mental illness. Psychoeducation of mental illness conditions should be encouraged, as valuable, online resources to help us learn are at the tips of our fingers. Mental health education is something that should be discussed regularly, not only when someone is struggling. These actions can help to reframe how individuals understand mental health and stigma in general.
Statistics regarding the prevalence of mental illness should be highlighted regularly, as nearly one in five adults are struggling with mental illness at any given time. Teaching both kids and adults about mental health and illness can raise awareness and increase comprehension of conditions without stereotypes ever being curated. It is essential that society and media work to challenge stigmas and make this world as inclusive as it can be for individuals of any identity.
Stigma continues to enforce negative beliefs and attitudes about a person, specifically regarding certain identity traits or characteristics. Stigma leads to discrimination and harmful perceptions, especially for those that struggle with mental health. One of the most stigmatized mental health conditions is schizophrenia, characterized by a lost sense of reality that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People have come to stigmatize schizophrenia because they lack education, awareness, and a general understanding of the condition. It is crucial that these stigmas continue to be challenged so that people that are struggling can get the help that they need, or avoid relapse for those in recovery. Achieve Concierge understands how harmful stigmas can be in mental health recovery. Our compassionate community works together to challenge these stigmas so that our clients will feel safe, loved, and supported. We treat more than your diagnosis. For more information, call (619) 393-5871.