Schizophrenia and Stigma
While there are a variety of feasible and effective programs to reduce stigmatization among health professionals in mental health related areas, there are several other strategies that can be put in place by health professionals to counter stigmatization within the population. Thornicroft (2006) identifies some of them.
First, health professionals would benefit from getting more involved in the media to properly inform the public about mental health issues. The media, often overly sensational, convey negative images of violence, weakness, and disability related to mental health issues; this contributes greatly to stigmatization in society. Making positive recovery stories visible could reduce the message sent to the public and thus lessen the public’s fear of people with mental disorders.
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Secondly, health professionals are responsible for providing appropriate training for future health professionals by adding anti-stigma workshops to the university curriculum, as well as advanced training on mental disorders. According to Cutler and colleagues (2009), university programs that directly integrate stereotypes and stigma around mental health promote better recognition of psychiatry treatment by students.
Thirdly, health professionals should pay more attention to what service users and their families are saying about their experiences of discrimination, whether in work, housing search, or even in a clinical setting. Health professionals can prevent discrimination in the clinical settings by maintaining not an expert status with patients, but rather a partnership, while showing them hope for a future recovery.
Also, it is essential to foster self-esteem and empowerment in the struggling individual, using their strengths and life goals as leverage for therapy. The literature reports that these attitudes are often overlooked by health professionals and affect the confidence and self-esteem of service users. With respect to discrimination experienced by individuals with a mental health problem outside the clinical setting, health professionals can adjust their interventions based on client-reported difficulties and act more as agents of change by working with the institutions involved.
Finally, health professionals must continue to provide psychoeducation to their patients and their families. It is important to explain the diagnosis to the person who has just received it, and to their family if they wish, so as to eliminate as many prejudices as possible in the face of the disease. This intervention is likely to have a favorable impact on self-stigma and thus, could lead to better management by the person with a mental disorder.
To counter self-stigma, health professionals are also called upon to support people with mental illness in their disclosure or non-disclosure process. This is to explain the advantages and disadvantages of disclosure and non-disclosure, to support the person in his reflexive process based on the negative consequences and benefits discussed, and ultimately to choose who, when and how to say it, if disclosure is the chosen option.