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Mental Health Stigma

            Being a psychology major and planning on working in the mental health field, mental health stigma is a serious concern to me. This encompassing stigma is significantly hurtful towards those suffering from a mental illness. It is due to the lack of knowledge concerning mental illnesses that such a stigma has been created. Wahl (1999) surveyed thousands of mentally ill people and found that they overwhelming reported lower self-esteem, hurt, anger, and discouragement from the imposed stigma and encouraged mental health education due to the lack of knowledge and understanding of mental health. It is then from this lack of understanding, judgment has been born. Those suffering from a mental illness are in fear of being judged, and so are not utilizing the services readily available, so as to not be labeled as mentally ill. The effect of the stigma is more serious than some people may realize. Corrigan (2000) explains how those suffering from a mental illness are discriminated against in way such as: less likely to be hired, less likely to be approved in leasing a house or car, and more likely to have criminal charges pressed against them.

            Over the summer, I interned at Missouri Institute of Mental Health (MIMH) and a project that I worked on was centered on mental health stigma. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a prominent organization that fights mental illness inaccuracies, and was also in charge of the project I worked on analyzing this summer. It was from my work with them that I have now realized how serious of a concern it is, not only for those suffering from a mental illness, but for those that have such a misrepresented view of mental health. The significant components that I hope to research and write about include victim advocacy; small groups consisting of people with a mental illness, family members of a mentally ill person, professionals, or curious citizens that work to expel this stigma and teach the truth; organizations that fight against the mental health stigma; and the serious effects that the mental health stigma has created. This is an issue that needs to create greater abundance in satisfying the needs of those suffering from the stigma and those that are unaware of the seriousness of mental health.

References

Corrigan, P.W. (2000). Mental health stigma as social attribution: Implications for research

            methods and attitude change. Clinical Psychology: Practice and Science, 7(1).

Wahl, O.F. (1999). Mental health consumers’ experience of stigma. Schizophrenia Bulletin,

            25(3).

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