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What is mental health stigma?

What is mental health stigma? June Jones from Time to Change Wales explains.
Time to Change Wales is the first all-Wales campaign to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination faced by people and their families. The Time to Change Wales programme is delivered by a partnership of two leading mental health charities in Wales Adferiad Recovery and Mind Cymru. The campaign is funded by Welsh Government. The aim of Time to Change Wales is to end mental health stigma and discrimination in Wales by creating a mass movement led by people with experience of mental health problems. That gets people talking about mental health. That is individuals, employers, decision makers and the media, bust common myths and improve knowledge. Highlights the reality of living with mental illness in Wales. And the impacts of stigma and discrimination.
The campaign’s key messages are small things make a big difference. You do not need to be an expert to talk about mental health. Normalise conversations about mental health. It’s okay to not be okay. People with mental health can still lead productive and fulfilling lives. There is always hope. At times, the concept of mental health is not widely understood. Which in turn might contribute to a lack of awareness of what mental health is. Fear of judgment from within a person’s Work, family and friends can be a reason why people might avoid disclosing that they have a problem with their mental health.
The fear of personal, familial, or community collective shame is often shared as the biggest consequence of stigma and a reason why people don’t ask for help. The fear of maintaining confidentiality may discourage people from speaking out as it could ruin their future prospects within their community. Mental illness can sometimes be viewed as a curse rather than an illness, for example, as a punishment from God, possession by spirits. Jinn. There is often emphasis placed on the idea of not wanting to be viewed as weak within communities, particularly men.
Let’s remind ourselves about some key facts concerning mental illness. People who have a mental illness are everyday people. Relatives friends, colleagues, teachers, doctors, etcetera. About one in four people will experience a mental health problem. During a lifetime, about one in 100 of us will be diagnosed with schizophrenia. The most common conditions are depression and anxiety, whereas schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are less common. Nine out of ten people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination. People with a mental illness can recover. Stigma is a form of prejudice, a prejudgment which can set a person apart from everyone else. Stigma is always negative. Stigma is about having unfair attitudes about people with a mental health problem.
For example, labelling people as different or strange. Discrimination arises from stigma and results in people being treated unfairly. Discrimination can be direct or indirect. For example, bullying, excluding the person from social groups or turning them down for a job. What does mental Health stigma and discrimination look like? Some of the words or phrases that can be used around mental health stigma. Man up. Just get over it. You don’t look ill. What have you got to be depressed about? You are just lazy. You have a demon in you. You are too weak. How does it affect people? Being teased and abused. Not being trusted. Losing friends and family. Misrepresentation in the media. Unemployment.
Losing your job, or not getting a job at all. Exclusion from education, training and social activities. There are various reasons why stigma takes place. A lack of understanding of what mental illness is. A belief that mental illness does not exist. Cultural insensitivity. Spiritual beliefs. Misconceptions of mental illness. For example, you have schizophrenia, you must be dangerous. OCD means having a tidy desk. What mental health self-stigma looks like? I don’t want to be a nuisance or burden. Comparison with others. I shouldn’t feel like this. Others have it worse. Denial that something is wrong. Where might it come from? Fear of not being believed. Fear of wasting staff time. How to help? Listen and allow people to explore how they are feeling.
Let people know it’s okay not to be okay. We all have mental health and just as our physical health, we don’t feel 100% all the time. Don’t assume someone is okay because they present okay. Always ask twice. The impact of stigma stops people from reaching out for help. Self-stigma makes people feel they don’t deserve help. Communities can have different understandings of mental health. And some won’t even have the language to facilitate a conversation about mental health. It takes courage for a person to share their feelings and to open up when you are at your most vulnerable.
The impact of stigma that is fear of judgment and negative responses from practitioners results in a bad experience that stops people from opening up about their mental illness. And finally, just some resources that you can use to help you with tackling mental health stigma.

What is mental health stigma? The video in this step is presented by June Jones.

June is the Interim Programme Manager at Time to Change Wales. Time to Change Wales is an all-Wales campaign, funded by Welsh Government, to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.

June begins by giving an overview of the Time to Change Wales campaign and its key messages. She explains that differences in how people understand mental health may contribute to stigma around it. She carefully defines mental health stigma, self-stigma, and discrimination and gives us some examples of how and when they can impact on experiences of mental health problems. June describes how fear of judgment and negative responses from practitioners can stop people from seeking mental health support and makes some recommendations for practitioners to address this. You will find links to the free resources available from the Time to Change Wales website, mentioned by June in the presentation, below.

As you work through this activity, the focus will narrow to Muslim experiences of mental health stigma, looking more closely at the distinctive, and perhaps heightened, effects of stigma for Muslims individuals and communities through a lived experience example.


To find out more about the work of Time to Change Wales, look at their website, where you can access free resources around tackling mental health stigma.

Over to you

How would you describe the difference between mental health stigma and self-stigma to a colleague or friend? Share your summary below. Can you add to, or ask questions about, another learners’ summary?

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Understanding Mental Health in Muslim Communities

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