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Stigma and discrimination

Mental health stigma and discrimination is receiving increasing attention across the world because its impact is devastating on individuals, communities and society. It prevents people seeking help, impairs recovery and isolates sufferers of mental health problems.

'Mental health problems are common but nearly 9 out of 10 people who experience them say they face stigma and discrimination'

Source: Time to Change

What is Stigma and Discrimination?

When someone experiences a mental health problem it can be difficult for others to understand what that person may be going through and how they can help.

Stigma - When we make assumptions about how mental health problems will affect someone's behaviour, this makes it more likely that they will be singled out, or labelled as different, dangerous or strange.

Discrimination - Treating someone differently from how we treat others because of their mental health, whether consciously or subconsciously.

Effects of Stigma and Discrimination

Living with a mental health problem can make everyday activities such as going to the shops or interacting with work colleagues a stressful or daunting experience.

The Stigma Shout survey (2008), a study performed in England by Time to Change involving service users and carers, shows that people with mental health problems:-

  • time for change logoexperience more discrimination and stigma than they had anticipated in situations like going shopping, socialising and professional relationships
  • anticipate more stigma and discrimination than they actually experience when it comes to disclosure of their problem

Target Audience and Location

An important aspect of any awareness campaign is targeting the right people. The Stigma Shout survey (England, 2008), completed by people with mental health problems and carers, determined a list of groups to focus on in anti-stigma campaigns.

The results of this research demonstrate that there are some groups of people that both service users and carers believe should be targeted.

Here are the Top 5 groups (descending priority):-

graph target 01

Other target audiences include young people, psychiatrists, police and journalists.

In the same survey service users and carers were asked where they think would be a good location to hold successful anti-stigma campaigns. On the most part, both carers and service users reached the conclusion that media (TV, Newspaper etc.) is the number one place to hold campaigns of this nature. Coming in at a close second was schools.

graph target 02

More information about this study can be found on the Stigma Shout survey report.

What Should We Say?

The Stigma Shout survey (England, 2008) spent some time on gauging the key messages to take away from anti-stigma and other mental health campaigns.

Of the responses given, the following were the most popular:

  • We are people - see me, not the illness (service user 51%, carer 44%)
  • Having a mental health problem is a common part of life, 1 in 4... (42%, 45%)
  • People with mental health problems can and do recover to lead rewarding and fulfilling lives (37%, 35%)
  • We should have the same rights as everyone else (37%, 33%)

Campaign Approach

Any campaign, regardless of subject matter or scope depends on factual information. The Stigma Shout survey (England, 2008) shows this and some other components that would promote a successful campaign; it needs to be hard-hitting, humorous and avoid lecturing.

Finding the balance between what one person might want and what another person responds to can be difficult. Whilst being hard-hitting, the campaign also needs to avoid being to gentle or too shocking. When asked about inclusion of controversial subjects, opinion by those surveyed were split.

Related Pages

Mental Health InformationMyths And Facts

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