Some more writing from yours truly coming sometime in the next week or so, but in the meantime, here’s an interesting article I just spotted on the NZ Herald website. Much of it certainly resonates with me, especially the bits I’ve put in bold.
Mental health discrimination comes from all sources – report
A new study looking at stigma faced by people with mental illness found many encountered discrimination from those closest to them – their family, friends and support people.
Launched today, the study, undertaken by the Mental Health Foundation, surveys the experiences of 76 men and women from around the country, including Pakeha, Maori, Pacific Islanders, youth and refugees.
Called Fighting Shadows: Self-Stigma and Mental Illness: Whawhai Atu te Whakama Hihira, the study looked at how discrimination towards people with mental illness affected them.
Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said the study found negative messages about mental illness within society shaped and reinforced the attitudes people with mental health problems had towards themselves.
“These attitudes hold people back from full participation in society, and create a cycle of internalised stigma, or ‘self-stigma’.”
The report said many people with experience of mental illness felt self-stigma.
It was closely associated with discrimination and could lead to a variety of consequences, including low self-esteem and self-doubt, and generally made life worse for the people who experienced it.
Overcoming it could lead to a sense of empowerment in people’s lives.
People felt reduced self esteem, isolation, and exhibited social withdrawal. Many were alienated from their family. They were less likely to seek treatment for symptoms and their symptoms could worsen and take longer to recover.
The report said discrimination came from all sources, including mental health services, and friends and family.
Many people reported their feelings of self-stigma had been triggered from an early age by attitudes and behaviour of family members.
“Some cited a lack of understanding and openness in the family environment towards issues of mental illness, as well as unhelpful beliefs about the nature of mental illness.”
The media also came in for criticism, with coverage of mental health issues described as biased, negative, sensationalised or incorrect.
“One particular stereotype the media was seen as contributing to was that people with experience of mental illness cannot cope with life, are dependant, and need support. It is easy to see how self-stigma can develop if people believe this stereotype.”
Support people could be overbearing or patronising, lack trust and confidence in the mental health sufferer, and be critical and judgemental.
Ways of dealing with self-stigma included using affirmations, having peer support, and recovery-oriented programmes.
People also talked about the importance of culture and identity in their lives, as well as having a strong and supportive family or whanau environment.
One in five New Zealanders report being diagnosed with mental illness in any one year, and the ratio rises to two in five when reporting diagnosis at some point during their lives.