The main reason mental disorders and people with them are stigmatized is the presence of a massive number of prejudices and stereotypes. They stem from a lack of understanding by the general public. A person with a mental illness may look normal, but even in the absence of physiological manifestations, this condition continues to be a disease. Often, mental states are expressed through changes in behavior, which only strengthens stereotypes. A person can suddenly begin to behave, for example, more aggressively. People with mental illness are then perceived as a danger (Borenstein, 2020). Unpredictability due to difficulties with self-control often leads to increased stigma.
Having learned about such problems, people often change their attitude towards a person. Employers may refuse to hire such a person, explaining this by incompetence (Borenstein, 2020). Finally, such an attitude leads to self-stigmatization, expressed in a drop in self-esteem, difficulties in building relationships, and, eventually, difficulties in treating the condition. These adverse effects are manifested even more intensely due to external influences. In this context, the most influential is the modern media and its products. Often, in various mainstream films, people with mental illness are portrayed distortedly, portraying inaccurate, harmful, or even violent representations (Borenstein, 2020). Such images are fixed in people’s minds, developing and reinforcing stereotypes, ultimately worsening the lives of people with actual mental illnesses.
Stereotypes and stigma do not only poison the lives of people with psychological problems. Throughout history, a similar attitude was expressed towards, for example, skin diseases, due to which a person stood out against the background of others, sexually transmitted infections, which meant the presence of unwanted sexual intercourse. Although people are victims of circumstances in many cases, society rarely supports them, preferring, as in the case of psychological problems, to blame the people themselves for the problems. A similar situation is observed concerning various kinds of addictions: from alcohol to drug addiction. Although the condition is a complex brain disorder, people continue to blame victims of habit for their weak character (Volkow, 2020). In addition, the problem of addiction and mental health often cause each other. For example, people are often depressed from drug use and stigma. On the other hand, the presence of severe mental disorders often becomes a reason for taking drugs in an attempt to distract and calm down.
Borenstein, J. (2020). Stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illness. American Psychiatric Association. Web.
Volkow, N. (2020). Addressing the stigma that surrounds addiction. National Institute of Drug Abuse. Web.