TMS Expert Blog
by Ailish, TMS Technician, Dublin, Ireland
In her first expert blog post, our Irish TMS Technician Ailish looks at the discrimination and stigma that surround mental illness.
A Tide Is Turning
Mental illness has become recognised as an increasingly pressing public health concern in recent decades. Estimates indicate that around 450 million people worldwide are directly affected by mental illness, a condition which can significantly impact the lives not only of the sufferer but of those around them too – families, friends and colleagues.
Stigma and discrimination affect almost every aspect of mental healthcare – the public services and education provided just as much as patients’ own perception of mental illness and their willingness to seek help.
Things are changing. The World Health Organisation has stated that mental illness stigma and discrimination are the most important barrier to overcome.
In order to do so, society will need to recognise the effects that stigma and discrimination have on individuals suffering from mental illnesses and seek to reduce them for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole.
What is Stigma?
Psychological researchers argue that mentally ill individuals face a ‘double problem.’
Firstly, the challenges of coping with the symptoms of their illness, which often affects their ability to study, work, cope with daily life stressors, live independently, interact with others etc. Secondly, these individuals face difficulties with societal reactions to mental illness.
Mental health stigma can be divided into two distinct types: social stigma is characterised by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviour directed towards individuals with mental health problems. In contrast, self-stigma is the internalising by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination (Link, Cullen, Struening & Shrout, 1989), and perceived stigma can significantly affect feelings of shame and lead to poorer treatment outcomes.
Evidence shows that the general public has greater disapproving and negative attitudes towards individuals with a mental illness than those with a physical illness.
What is Discrimination?
Discrimination is described by Stuart (2005) as a “natural outgrowth” of stigma.
Stigma and discrimination of mental illness can present itself on both social and structural levels.
Mentally ill individuals are often feared and thus distanced socially from society. This fear and exclusion have been found to have detrimental effects on the stigmatized person, leading to social isolation, self-stigma, and low self-esteem (Corrigan, & Watson, 2006).
Structural discrimination involves the inequitable treatment of mentally ill individuals often affecting their ability to gain employment and housing opportunities (Stuart, 2005). Signs of both social and structural discrimination appear evident in Ireland, where in the previous survey investigating attitudes towards mental health, one in four people believe they would not become ‘close friends’ with a person experiencing a mental health difficulty and four out of five people would not feel comfortable employing a mentally ill individual (Ring, 2015).
This is within our power to change.
Ailish, TMS Technician
Ailish is a TMS Technician at the Smart TMS Ireland Clinic in Dublin.
Her qualifications and experience include:
- Degree in Psychology through science, Maynooth University.
- Voluntary work as a Mental Health carer.
- Ailish has particular interests in the fields of Mental Health, Cognition and Neuroscience.
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