Our day to vocabulary has a number of words like mental / paagal etc that we use to describe a person who behaves differently, thus trying to equate him with a person suffering from psychiatric illness. Thus this stigma has been ingrained in our mind that people who suffer from such illnesses are not normal or fit for a healthy society. Person with mental health problems are usually perceived as weak, untidy, harmful, and dangerous. They are also considered as a nuisance to the public.
Also it is a misconception that such patients are have to be treated by traditional healers or there is no cure for a person with a mental health problem. So, they are often neglected without any support and few of them end up begging or as homeless mentally ill.
Because of this stigma and discrimination they face in the society they try to hide their illness from the family and community and become reluctant to seek medical care. Sometimes they are taken away to far off places and left as a destitute because of stigma, high cost of the treatment and lack of knowledge. Overall, there is a delay in help-seeking because of the community’s perception about a person with a mental health problem
Despite advances in the understanding of mental health issues, mentally ill persons are referred to in various derogatory terms by the public as well as the media. It was quite obvious that using derogatory terms to characterize and brand a person with a mental health problem is a universal phenomenon.
Portraying mental illness in a stigmatizing or derogatory manner by the media is also a common phenomenon. People with mental illnesses are depicted as being untidy, dangerous, dependent and a burden to the family. Anyone behaving slightly differently is referred to as ‘pagal’ even by the media. A few movies/TV shows depict them being verbally and physically abused.
It is felt that persons with mental illnesses are affected most in the area of marriage. Most of them do not marry or they end up marrying late. Further, most of the marriages conclude in nullity.
Change strategies for public stigma have been grouped into three approaches: protest, education, and contact. Groups protest inaccurate and hostile representations of mental illness as a way to challenge the stigmas they represent. These efforts send two messages. To the media: STOP reporting inaccurate representations of mental illness. To the public: STOP believing negative views about mental illness. Protest is a reactive strategy; it attempts to diminish negative attitudes about mental illness, but fails to promote more positive attitudes that are supported by facts.
Education provides information so that the public can make more informed decisions about mental illness. This approach to changing stigma has been most thoroughly examined by investigators. Research, for example, has suggested that persons who have a better understanding of mental illness are less likely to endorse stigma and discrimination. Hence, the strategic provision of information about mental illness seems to lessen negative stereotypes. Education programs are effective for a wide variety of participants, including college undergraduates, graduate students, adolescents, community residents, and persons with mental illness.
Stigma is further diminished when members of the general public meet persons with mental illness who are able to hold down jobs or live as good neighbors in the community. Hence, opportunities for the public to meet persons with severe mental illness may discount stigma. Interpersonal contact is further enhanced when the general public is able to regularly interact with people with mental illness as peers.
References taken from
Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness.World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) by Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2002) & National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16