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What is stigma?

Stigma is avoidance, mistreatment, or discrimination against the person that can be intentional or subconscious. People believe that persons with mental illness are dangerous, irrational and manipulative. The stigmatized person is labeled with negative stereotypes.

Causes of stigma

The causes of stigma are:

  • Lack of interest in patients and their mental health history
  • Being held to psychiatric treatment only
  • Being diagnosed with stigmatizing diagnoses
  • Poor quality of mental health treatment
  • Lack of education in community about mental health and illness
  • Inability to clear myths and misconceptions about mental illness

Effects of stigma

  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Discrimination
  • Violation of human rights

Ways to reduce discrimination

  • Use of less stigmatizing diagnoses
  • Treat the person and illness separately
  • Respect the autonomy of the patient
  • Avoid sensationalizing
  • Avoid assumption that all mentally challenged are violent/dangerous
  • Social media awareness campaigns and education tools


Stigma reduction strategies

Intrapersonal level

  • Treatment and counseling
  • Empowerment
  • Self-help, advocacy and support groups

Interpersonal level

  • Care and support
  • Home care teams
  • Community-based rehabilitation

Organizational level

  • New policies (for example, patient-centered and integrated approaches)

Community level

  • Education, advocacy

Governmental / structural level

  • Legal and policy interventions
  • Rights-based approaches

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