April 2017 \ Arts & Entertainment \ MIND AND BODY
The Stigma of Mental Illness

Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that is thought to be,

By Dr Walid Sarhan F.R.C. Psych

Mental health stigma can be divided into two distinct types: social stigma as characterized by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior directed towards individuals with mental health problems because of the psychiatric label, they have been given. In contrast, perceived stigma or self-stigma is the internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination. Perceived stigma can significantly affect feelings of shame and lead to poorer treatment outcomes. The effect of this stigma on the patient from inside and outside could be seen clinically as bigger than the psychiatric disorder. 

An example: when a man kills several children in a school anywhere in the world,  the news spreads around and the comments immediately focus on the possibility of this man being mentally disturbed , even if the man is not yet captured by the police.  Such media activity stops next day but leave the image worldwide that a mentally disturbed man will kill your children any time at their school. Many of our patients also get terrified that they may not do the same thing. This adds to their suffering in addition to the way people look at them as potential murderers. 

How could we fight stigma? Is it possible that people will change their views about the subject of psychiatry? The answer is simple: Yes. We can start by ourselves and improve our knowledge and awareness.  When we know what is schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar affective disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, the fear from those patients becomes less. Humanity dictates that human beings should help other human beings when they suffer for whatever reason, especially in case of illness whether cancer, depression or diabetes. This should be supported by the media whether classical or social. Sometimes the media worsen the stigma by the way they present psychiatric disorders in news stories, TV series, movies and comments in the social media.