Blog #4: The Stigma of Mental Illness

Stigma is affixed on a person, by the greater society, who differs from their cultural norms. As Goffman states, stigmas are everywhere in society until they become destigmatized. Some examples stigmas that have become destigmatized are tattoos, homosexuality, and breast cancer. The stigma that has yet to be destigmatized and that I will be talking about is mental illness.

The news article that I found grasped my attention and made me realize that mental illness is surely a stigma in our society. Coming from a family where two members have mental illnesses, I can see now how mental illnesses are perceived in our society and how it is not a cultural norm. Why treat someone who suddenly started hearing voices different? They were once “normal” like yourself and I; I doubt they want to be alone and closed up in a room having pills forced down their throat.

This is how Zac felt after not telling his mother for a year that he was hearing voices, “People will judge you, especially after someone gets assaulted by a crazy guy. I could be that crazy guy.” He says that he wants to live a normal life, get a job, and start a family. How will girls perceive him once he tells them that he is schizophrenic?

Another example of a child suffering from a mental illness, is a a 7 year old schizophrenic girl that ended up being interviewed by Oprah. Her parents tried to help as much as possible to have their daughter live a normal life. As a result, her mother found other families that have children suffering from mental illnesses and began to have occasional meet-ups where their children can play and not be judged by one another. In a sense, these families have destigmatized the mental illnesses that their children developed and have accepted them for who they’ve become.


7 responses to “Blog #4: The Stigma of Mental Illness

  1. People are constantly judging people with mental illness. However, it is unfair and unjust. People who have mental illness cannot help what has happen to them and the struggles that they go through. This is especially so for people with mental illness who are unaware of their actions. Additionally, people who suffer for mental illness have families who also have to deal with stigma. Thus, we should be more carefully with our words and our judgments with people with illness.

  2. An individual with a mental illness should not be judged or criticized without an understanding of what the issue is or having some sort of experience with it. Stereotyping and quick judgement are quite common nowadays, and in most cases the ones to judge have not a clue of what the situation is about. Those with mental illnesses are degraded or looked down upon as inferior. Many people look at them as incapable of fitting in. Oprah looking into this case to gain a better understanding of 7 year-old Jani is a wonderful thing to do. It does help destigmatize having mental illnesses to a certain extent because now an additional person has more or less an understanding of the scenario is like. Surrounding children with these conditions with each other allows them to feel more accepted by society. I feel that everyone should hold off on jumping to conclusions and stereotypes and instead take sometime to understand better.

  3. Everyone should be treated equally and given equal opportunities regardless of their physical or mental state. Although I agree to what you have said I do want to add that often for families it becomes hard for them to accept their own children as they are because the society they live in is what they would like to please and also want their children to get equal treatments in society. I have read and heard of countries in which children are mentally ill and sometimes may even become harmful to others but there are parents who would rather not spend that much money on the child’s well being and just keep living life the way it is. In most societies I can say we want to treat people with mental illnesses or any other illness equally but I can also say most of us become sympathetic and “feel bad” etc not realizing we are not giving the same treatment, and that’s another stigma.

  4. I watched a documentary on this little girl and her mental illness. I think that her mother finding children with the same disorder and setting play dates for them to interact is a wonderful idea. No one person should feel less than normal or ostracized from our society because of stigmatization. It is a shame that most of the time many people do not realize they are judging others and placing labels on to them.

  5. Great post, and comments. No question, mental illness continues to be stigmatized in our society — but it’s interesting to think about changes over time and how stigma works differently with respect to different types of mental illness. While problems such as depression and anxiety are arguably less stigmatized than they used to be, the same does not seem to hold for schizophrenia. Those with this condition are “otherized” in a way that’s different than those suffering from depression, for example. As demonstrated in the classic Rosenhan experiment, once someone is diagnosed as schizophrenic, having reported “hearing voices,” the label is hard to lose. It can become a “self-fulfilling prophecy,” due to the way other people, especially authorities, treat you.

    The study is described here:

  6. People with a mental illness are always being made fun of. They cannot help it, it is something that they were born with. People need to realize that making fun of someone with a mental illness is just wrong. But the mother’s idea of setting up play dates with other children with mental illnesses was brilliant. The child will realize that their are people just like him.

  7. I believe mental illness will always be stigmatized one way or another. People react different to other disabilities, often times believing that individuals are either doing it for attention. Some individuals in society are not oblivious to the treatment of those with mental illness, those with mental illness may try hiding it from others by adding disidentifiers to try to divert the anything that may give away their illness to others. With the 7 year old schizophrenic, there are many people whom have destigmatized illnesses by creating camps for children with disability and organizations where people with certain illnesses may go and interact with others suffering from the same thing. Great blog!

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