I’ve recently read Stigma and mental health problems: why psychiatric professionals are the main culprits, by Gary Sidley, PhD. You can find it on his website. It’s a concise, accurate, and compelling account of how psychiatry stigmatizes its clients. This is a particularly important topic, in that psychiatrists routinely assert that it is we mental illness deniers and critics who create the stigma.
Gary distinguishes public stigma (negative evaluation by the public), and self stigma, which arises when mental health clients accept these negative evaluations and begin to undervalue themselves.
The post discusses four consequences of the stigma attached to mental health problems:
- Being perceived as a danger to others
- Having limited social networks
- Receiving harassment from others
- Loss of valued roles
Gary concludes the article by pointing out three ways in which psychiatric staff inadvertently stigmatize their clients;
- By insisting that mental health problems are brain diseases
- By perpetrating negative and discriminatory attitudes
- By using diagnostic labels
This is a short article, but there are 28 excellent references, which facilitate exploration of any facet of the issue.
Here are some quotes:
“…a scholarly review of the research evidence…reported that bio-genetic explanations of psychiatric problems – the ‘mental illness is an illness like any other’ approach – are far more likely to nurture stigmatising attitudes as compared to explanations based on people’s difficult life experiences.”
“…many people within the psychiatric system are denied certain civil liberties that are afforded all other citizens (with the possible exception of suspected terrorists!), these restrictive practices often being justified on the basis of dubious assumptions about their dangerousness.”
“Despite compelling evidence…that psychiatric diagnoses are virtually meaningless, conveying very little about the causes of someone’s mental health problem nor the interventions that will achieve respite, psychiatric professionals deploy these labels in their routine communications thereby exacerbating the stigma suffered by people already enduring misery and distress.”
Please read and pass on.