All done with this lesson? You can mark it as complete in your dashboard.

1. Ready

What is stigma?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, stigma is “a mark of shame or discredit … most often refer[ing] to a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.” With regards to mental illness, there are three different types of stigma that are particularly relevant:

  1. Public stigma – the reaction of the general population to people with mental illness. After analyzing data from over 2,000 English and American citizens, researchers identified
    three main stigmatizing beliefs Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2002). Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World psychiatry: Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 1(1), 16–20.
    about people with mental illness:
    1. Fear and exclusion – persons with mental illness should be feared and, therefore, kept out of most communities.
    2. Authoritarianism – persons with severe mental illness are irresponsible, so life decisions should be made by others.
    3. Benevolence – persons with severe mental illness are childlike and need to be cared for.
  2. Self-stigma – “the prejudice[s] which people with mental illness turn against themselves” People living with mental illness often internalize stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs that are widely endorsed throughout society and their culture, which degrades their self-esteem and confidence and leaves them feeling less valued.
  3. Courtesy stigma – the stigma-by-association experienced by those who are closely associated with someone suffering from a mental illness (ex. parents, friends, health care practitioners) People who experience courtesy stigma may attempt to create distance between themselves and the person with the mental illness in an attempt to “protect” themselves. However, this
    enhances the social isolation Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health (2012). Evidence In-Sight: Effective stigma reduction strategies in child and youth mental health.
    that many people with mental illness experience and reinforces an “us/them dichotomy”. Additionally,
    it is theorized Martin, N. & Johnston, V. (2007). A Time for Action: Tackling Stigma and Discrimination. Report to the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
    that courtesy stigma, at least partially, accounts for the chronic underfunding of psychiatric services.

Why is it important to talk about stigma?

In the 2001 report,
“Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope”, World Health Organizartion. (2001). Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope. WHO.
the World Health Organization suggests that “the single most important barrier to overcome in the community is the stigma and associated discrimination towards persons suffering from mental and behavioural disorders”. Many people who are struggling with their mental health and who would benefit from professional care, fail to seek treatment or refuse to fully participate in treatment because they want to avoid the stigma associated with mental illness. Specifically,
researchers Corrigan, P. (2004). How stigma interferes with mental health care. American Psychologist, 59(7), 614–625.
have identified that stigma gets in the way of mental health care by diminishing self-esteem and impeding social opportunities. Shockingly, data from the
Canadian Youth Mental Health & Illness Survey Davidson, S., & Manion, I. G. (1996). Facing the challenge: Mental health and illness in Canadian youth. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 1(1), 41-56.
indicates that 63% of youth point to stigma as the most likely reason not to seek help for mental health challenges.

Fortunately,
three effective strategies Rüsch, N., Angermeyer, M. C., & Corrigan, P. W. (2005). Mental illness stigma: Concepts, consequences, and initiatives to reduce stigma. European psychiatry, 20(8), 529-539.
have been identified to address stigma:
  1. Education to improve mental health literacy.
  2. Protesting against stigmatizing attitudes, beliefs, images and actions.
  3. Having contact with someone who has personally experienced mental illness.
The Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child & Youth Mental Health Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health (2012). Evidence In-Sight: Effective stigma reduction strategies in child and youth mental health.
summarizes the educational aspect of stigma reduction as “using information to contradict commonly held myths” about mental illness and argues that education programs effectively reduce stigma across diverse populations, including police officers, government officials, healthcare providers, and students.

Where can I learn more?

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) – Understanding Stigma (Free Online Course)

Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health – Faces of Mental Illness Campaign

TED Talk – There’s No Shame in Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Mental Health Commission of Canada – Stigma and Discrimination

Mental Health Commission of Canada – Together Against Stigma: Changing How We See Mental Illness. A Report on the 5th International Stigma Conference

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health – Teacher’s Resource: Talking about mental illness. A guide for developing an awareness program for youth

Mood Disorders Society of Canada – Stigma research and anti-stigma programs: From the point of view of people who live with stigma and discrimination everyday

What will students learn?

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…

  • Explain mental health stigma and provide examples of stigmatizing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours
  • Recognize their own mental health stigma
  • Begin reconstructing a new story of mental health and illness that is more accepting, inclusive, open-minded, and respectful
References
Beecuz

Corrigan, P. (2004). How stigma interferes with mental health care. American Psychologist, 59(7), 614–

625.

Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2002). Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World psychiatry: Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 1(1), 16–20.

Davidson, S., & Manion, I. G. (1996). Facing the challenge: Mental health and illness in Canadian youth. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 1(1), 41-56.

Martin, N. & Johnston, V. (2007). A Time for Action: Tackling Stigma and Discrimination. Report to the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health (2012). Evidence In-Sight: Effective stigma reduction strategies in child and youth mental health.

Rüsch, N., Angermeyer, M. C., & Corrigan, P. W. (2005). Mental illness stigma: Concepts, consequences, and initiatives to reduce stigma. European psychiatry, 20(8), 529-539.

World Health Organizartion. (2001). Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope. WHO.

DOWNLOADS