The stigma against mental illness : public myths and policy failures as barriers to the protection of persons with mental disabilities
Lobão, Luciana : Ventura dos Santos
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Stigma is a universal phenomenon. In all cultures of the world mental illness is surrounded by unfounded myths, stereotypes and prejudice. Myths and misconceptions surrounding mental illness are the underlying causes of the so-called stigma, which effects deeply harm those who suffer from a mental illness. The media and the psychiatric labeling are considered the main vehicles for the perpetuation of this phenomenon. Mental illness stigma leads to social exclusion and discrimination, resulting in the violation of a wide range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The fear of stigmatization prevents the mentally ill people from seeking proper treatment, which is currently seen by psychiatry as one of the main barriers for mental illness recovery and the mentally ill integration in society. The distinction between the public (general society prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illness), self (when stigma is internalized and accepted by the ill person and structural (specific private and public policies, statutes and legal remedies meant to suppress discrimination) types of stigma is key to the understanding of this process. However, research shows that negative and stigmatizing stereotypes about the mentally ill can be changed and the public understanding and acceptance of mental illness improved by the promotion of anti-stigma programs and trough the adoption of different strategies such as contact (interaction between the public and the people with mental illness), education (more information about mental illness) and protest (social activism against mental illness stigma and discrimination).