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The Shame Game: Mental Health & Stigma

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Mary Seymour

on 20 March 2014

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Transcript of The Shame Game: Mental Health & Stigma

Mental Health

What is
mental health

Mental health stigma can be divided into two types:
1) social stigma
prejudice and discrimination directed toward people with mental health challenges as a result of their psychiatric labels
2) self stigma
internalizing of social prejudice and discrimination, which leads to feelings of shame
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.

~ Bill Clinton

is an ancient word that literally means a "mark" distinguishing individuals from one another.
Findings from the 2006 HealthStyles Survey
Only 42% of Americans believe that a person with a mental illness can be as successful at work as others.
Fewer than 1/3 of adults believe a person with mental illness can recover.
Only 26% of Americans feel that people are generally caring and sympathetic toward individuals with mental illnesses.
According to Mental Health: A Report of The Surgeon General (1999), discrimination and stigma associated with mental illness largely stem from the link between mental illness and violence in the minds of the general public.
Historically, many cultures have considered mental illness to be a form of demonic possession or religious punishment.
and Stigma
About one in four US adults, in any given year, has a mental disorder. In other words, mental disorders are common and can affect anyone.
People with mental health issues are violent and unpredictable.
The vast majority of people with mental health conditions are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Only
of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness.

People with severe mental illnesses are over
10 times more likely to be victims
of violent crime than the general population.

People with mental health needs cannot tolerate the stress of a job.
People with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees. Employers who hire people with mental health problems report good attendance and punctuality as well as motivation, good work, and job tenure on par with or greater than other employees.
People with mental illness have caused their own problems.
While people do need to take responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with disorders, they are not to blame for them. And they cannot just "snap out of it."
a cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate the general public to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people with mental illnesses
President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003
Who holds


beliefs about

mental health issues


Stigmatizing beliefs are held by a
broad range of people within society
, whether they know someone with a mental health issue, have a family member with a mental health condition, or have good knowledge and experience of mental health problems.
Crisp et al., 2000; Moses, 2010; Wallace, 2010
can lead people to define themselves by their illnesses
This phenomenon is called
positively correlates with


and a

lower sense of mastery.

People who self-label refer to their illness as an organic part of themselves,
merging their own identity with that of their psychiatric disorder.
What can we do to combat the shame of individuals who bear a mental health diagnosis?

Mental illness is rare.
for acceptance
Many people with serious mental illness are challenged doubly. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disease. On the other, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness.
World Psychiatry, February 2002
The Double Challenge
The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance. What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.

~ Glenn Close
You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle.
~ Julian Seifte
Shame is a soul eating emotion.
~ Carl Jung
Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.
~ J. K. Rowling,
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
collectively agreed upon notions of groups of people

a negative response to a stereotype, which leads to discrimination
In a survey of 235 people who kept some parts of their identities secret to avoid stigma, including people with mental illness, rape victims, and people with criminal records, the more stigmatized their secret identities, the more likely people were to report symptoms of physical illness.
~ Diane Quinn, PhD, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Multiple studies have shown that mental illness alone does not incline a person to violence. Instead it is the coexistence of other factors that increases the risk of violence:
~ a history of violence
~ substance use issues
~ socioeconomic environment
~ gender and youth
Responding to stigma, people with mental health problems internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment.
~ The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003
heavily influences our
mental illness
What do you
of this
informational campaign?
What do you think
of these

Strategies for decreasing mental health stigma fall into three approaches:

Protest is a
strategy. It attempts to diminish negative attitudes about mental illness.
in this strategy?
fails to promote more
attitudes that are supported by

so the public can make more
informed decisions
about mental health challenges.

Research suggests that people who have a better understanding of mental health conditions are less likely to endorse stigma and discrimination.
Stigma...is diminished when members of the general public meet persons with mental illness who are able to hold down jobs or live as good neighbors in the community.
Research has shown an inverse relationship between having contact with a person with mental illness and endorsing psychiatric stigma.
~ World Psychiatry, February 2002
What can
encourage a
to do to combat

Focus on your strengths.
Unpack and examine your stigma-related thoughts.
Understand that you are not your diagnosis.
Seek others who are understanding and supportive.
Educate yourself about mental health recovery.
Speak out against stigma.
Use affirmations.
Pay attention to media messages and how they may be influencing you.
Find a role model or mentor who has experienced mental health challenges.
Take part in a support group and/or peer support.
Recognize your uniqueness.
In 2003 artist Anna Schuleit took 28,000 potted plants and distributed them between four floors of an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Boston.

is a reflection on the healing symbolism of flowers being given to the sick when they are bedridden and confined to hospital settings, with the astounding, persistent exception of long-term psychiatric patients, who receive few, if any, flowers during their hospital stays.
Media analyses
of film and print have identified
People with mental health conditions are homicidal maniacs who need to be feared.
They have childlike perceptions of the world that should be marveled at.
They are responsible for their illness because they have weak characters.
Created by Mary Seymour,
Mental Health Association in Greensboro
330 S. Greene St., Suite B12
Greensboro NC 27401
336.373.1402 / www.mhag.org
Full transcript