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Research Papers on the Stigma of Mental Illness

Psychology research papers can examine the stigma of mental illness. Many disorders have a stigma associated with them and mental illness is often stigmatized worse than other disorders. Have Paper Masters' writers custom write you research on mental illness or any other psychology topic.

One of the difficulties many people encounter in attempting to treat mental illness is the continued stigma that many in society impose upon the disease. Stigma has been defined as negative views and interactions, and can lead towards discrimination. Stigma of Mental IllnessThe stigma of mental illness that people encounter not only leads to a lack of understanding on the part of family members, but can also keep many from seeking treatment. Further, the stigma of mental illness can lead to inadequate health insurance coverage of mental illnesses by companies.

There are many ways in which individuals can overcome society’s stigmas of mental illness.

  1. The first step is to actually seek out treatment. Admitting the need for treatment can empower the individual and reduce symptoms.
  2. A second step is to not keep mental illness a private matter with family. Understanding is one of the best ways of overcome stereotypes, which frequently perpetuate social stigma.

Stigma of mental illness adds a second level of challenge to dealing with mental illness. The symptoms are often bad enough; having to deal with people’s negative impressions and discriminations are worse. Unfortunately, studies continue to support the notion that the majority of adults in society, medical professionals included, continue to maintain stigmatizing attitudes towards mental illness.

This History of the Stigma of Mental Illness

When mental illness was first addressed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the United States, people who suffered from it were subjected to several forms of deplorable treatment. It is believed that prior to that time families were expected to keep mentally ill relatives locked up inside and away from society. The mentally ill were considered either possessed by demons or characterized as inhuman and incapable of feeling pain. Physical and mental abuse was common. Institutions used physical restraints, straight-jackets, or heavy arm and leg chains.

Over the past century, both governmental and non-profit agencies have acknowledged the mental health issue and have worked toward ensuring that people who need help can get it. In the nineteenth century, two advocates who spoke out against abuse of the mentally ill were Phillip Pinel and Dorthea Dix. Conditions improved slightly due to their efforts but were still far from ideal. In 1908, a formerly mentally ill doctor, Clifford Beers, published a book titled, “A Mind that Found Itself.” It documented his personal experience with inhumane treatment in American institutions in 1900. He founded the Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene, which quickly expanded to the National Committee for Mental Hygiene. It succeeded in reforming treatment of the mentally ill in several states (NMHA, 2005).

Another important organization that works toward improved treatment of the mentally ill is the National Association of Mental Health. It was formed in 1950. In 1960, NAMH and Congress’ Joint Commission on Mental Illness instituted a program for improved government mental health services. In 1996 Congress passed the Mental Health Parity Act which prevented insurance companies from limiting mental health coverage.

Sociologists believe that the way in which medicine defines and manages illness reflects certain social dynamics that shape the perception of disease. There are several theoretical viewpoints regarding illness in society. One that applies to mental illness is symbolic interactionism. This theory maintains that identity is created through interaction with others. Health-care practitioners usually play a dominant role and patients follow suit, playing the role of ill person. Research shows that interactionism draws people toward stigmas. Illnesses are associated with certain weaknesses, and people with those illnesses have a difficult time avoiding the stigma of weakness.

Furthermore, the greater the social gap between labeler and labeled, the more difficult it is for the labeled to resist the illness stigma. Therefore, people labeled as mentally ill endure an assault on their sense of self, primarily due to the label itself. Mentally ill patients cannot help but feel that their capacity for self-knowledge is poor and that they are probably delusional. Such people may come to believe the label. Ironically, it is this belief that leads caregivers to have hope for the patient’s eventual recovery. In summary, symbolic interactionism is a social dynamic that has contributed to the evolution of mental illness in society.

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