The passage outlined below deals with the experience of people with mental illness. It especially studies, weighs researches, and endeavors deriving conclusions about self-stigma, also called by many researchers as ‘discrimination’. People of different countries with different cultures participated in the various group discussions carried out by experts of mental health care staff and professionals. Although it was carried out for very long durations, no concrete answers were laid out. Only it helped for further discussions. The main relevance of the findings, however, can be fetched. Around 90% of the participants revealed that they had experienced self-stigma from people all around, from their own families themselves. Research Institutions like ‘Like Minds’, ‘Like Mine’ will benefit from the findings of the research to help the self-stigma struck people through resource development, education, and training initiatives.
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Four groups, by name ‘focus groups,’ have come forward with research programs. The plan consisted of associating and interacting with people of different countries of a different cultures. Many eminent writers carried out various researches into people with experience of self-stigma, also well-defined by many as an internalized stigma.
It was Stuart, who defined clearly that self-stigma is an internalized feeling of guilt, shame, inferiority, and the wish for secrecy, derived from those living with mental illness. It was Goffman (1963), who emphasized that self-stigma was really discrimination. In 2001, studies by Link and Phelan affirmed the same. If the concept of self-stigma persists, that will be the biggest barrier to recovery. People with experience of mental illness experience more and more self-stigmatism when they engage in negative self-dialogue. It worsens by family rejection, letting them down, self-exclusion, and experiencing self-doubt. Blaming oneself and feeling suicidal triggers the path to non-recovery.
Self-stigma can wreck people with experience of mental ailing by worsening symptoms, thus impending recovery. In group discussions, they found out that the best approach is to have an understanding doctor and proper medication. People affected by mental health would also be on the path to recovery if they went on to explore alternatives and had complimentary thoughts. Seeking spiritual support and receiving them would also help in a wide perspective. One with experience of mental ailing would also benefit if they developed a sense of humor. Eating well, while exercising is a factor for recovering from such an ailment, which all health-related problems also require. One would do well if one seeks employment. One of the main essentialities that lead to the well-being of a mentally disordered person is thinking positively of oneself and keeping an eye on oneself, seeing oneself in the big picture, as well as keeping a diary. In research by a Chinese group, the Chinese focus group, facilitated by Ivan Yeo, which was also the first mental health foundation of New Zealand, carried out tremendous talks and researches into the people affected by self-stigma. It revealed a lot of stark findings like people with self-stigma thought of not being normal, being discriminated against, and being isolated. Helpful questions such as what really internalized stigma meant and examples and how it affected lives, and the type of advice one would give others, were discussed among the participants. Those in the mental service, the health care staff, experts, professionals – all contributed their answers and findings for wider research.
The findings of the research were varied and many. For example, it differed from that of other self-stigmatized people, ones coming from a refugee background. The complex process of settlement and integration challenges was the main cause. For the one without a refugee background, the most haunting was for those isolated from family and friends and thus socially withdrawn. In the words of a participant, “Larry attempted suicide twice in the Tarrant County Jail. Once he slit his wrist and the inside of his elbow. He was rushed to the county hospital where he received blood transfusions and plastic surgery. A psychiatrist prescribed a tranquilizer for him whom he pretended to take and saved until he had enough for an overdose.” (Robison, 1999, para 28).
Thus, it is most essential that the health staff that deals with a person affected by self-stigma and provides medication should have extra care. Other factors affecting this segment of people are they feel insecure; they lack confidence; feel anxious, ashamed, losing face, and they feel guilty or embarrassed, and last but not the least, they feel suicidal. The health systems also worsen it dangerously by their part in discriminating too. Like a participant in the research said and in his own words, in the ‘Findings’,” (Robison, 1999).
The mental health institutions, thus, also sow the seeds of doubt which doesn’t in the least help a person affected by mental health or a discriminated man to improve. They would recognize seeing it either in themselves or in other people.
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There are other causes as well to self-stigma, like in the case of racism, and it can also be associated with those diagnosed positive for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). “Stigma about mental illness may determine how and even whether people seek help for mental health problems, their level of engagement with treatment and the outcome of their problems:” (King, et al, 2007).
It can also be combated by empowerment. A person affected by internalized stigma should involve in positive self-regard and the desire to have a positive effect on one’s community. One should stop comparing oneself with others negatively. Corrigan of Chicago, also of the ‘American Rehabilitation Society’ had put it wisely and made it crystal clear in one of his works and findings. “Corrigan describes empowerment as a measure of the control people with experience of mental illness have over all areas of their lives.” (Peterson, et al, 2008. p. 19).
A program was developed and modified by the researchers called the ‘Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). “These strategies and skills are being used in the worldwide mental health transformation movement.” (Mental health recovery and WRAP, 2009. para 3). It reduces the discrimination associated with mental illness and challenges discriminatory practices. It is found a very helpful tool for the mentally-challenged people.
In a conclusion statement in 2005, Bagley and King in ’how to successfully combat self-stigma and be oneself’ have put forth with their conclusion remark –
“It is generally believed that self-stigma arises from internalizing the negative messages and behavior that people with experience of mental illness receive from other people.” (Studies in the News, 2009, p.10).
King, M., et al. (2007). The stigma scale: development of a standardized measure of the sigma of mental illness: Use of the stigma scale in clinical care and research. BJPsych.
Mental health recovery and WRAP. (2009). Mary Ellen Copeland. Web.
Peterson, D., et al. (2008). Fighting shadows, self stigma and mental illness. Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. p. 19. Web.
Robison, L. (1999). Letter. Larryrobison.org. Web.
Studies in the News. (2009). California Department of Mental Health. P. 10. Web.