Stigma and discrimination against people with
mental illness constitute a significant public health concern,
leading to poorer access to healthcare, poverty, reduced access to
education and work, and increased co-morbidity and mortality.
This has been acknowledged by mental health
policies. For instance in the UK mental health policy for
2011-15, one of the six key objectives of the Government’s mental
health strategy specifies the need to ensure fewer people
experience stigma and discrimination due to their mental illness.
Internationally, the World Health Organisations’ Mental Health
Action Plan 2013 - 2020 specifies that people affected by mental
illness should be able to participate fully in society and at work,
free from stigmatisation and discrimination.
Although there is no generally accepted
specific theory of stigma, it can be defined as ‘an attribute that
is deeply discrediting and that reduces the bearer from a whole and
usual person to a tainted, discounted one’ (Goffman, 1963).
Attitudes held by health professionals,
including those who work in and outside of mental health, can have
positive and negative impacts upon patient quality of care.
In this module, we look at the impact of
stigma and discrimination on the public and private lives of people
with mental illness. We will also look at what are the active
ingredients for reducing stigma.
We shall ask:
- How does stigma interfere with the quality of life of people
with mental illness?
- What can people including psychiatrists do to reduce