The Ugly Face of Stigma Within Mental Health Services
February 18th 2015
Hello and thank you for visiting to read this post about the ugly face of stigma that sits within Mental Health Services and learning institutions. Stigma lurking deep within the crevices, rearing itself with no apology, and at times, it seems with a blatant, obtrusive and ‘stoking’ intent.
If you are visiting to read about the #MHMasks campaign you can find that here.
Read all of the communications between Robert Gordon University, Professor Kerry Reid Searl and myself on our ‘News and Updates’ page.
Whilst the feedback and statement from Professor Kerry Reid-Searl the innovator behind MASK-ED is an important development in the #MHmasks story it is not in any way mentioned on this website to deflect from what is important. What is important is a transparent and open dialogue that takes into consideration the views of those with lived experience of mental health difficulty. It would also be interesting to know if the use of the MASK-ED/KRS system within mental health training is supported by evidence based research and consultation.
Here is some background on the #MHMasks campaign, including a copy of the email that has been directed to the innovator behind the MASK-ED System.
What’s the story behind the mask?
View the background of the #MHmasks campaign in a story format:
or here for a full summary of all of the tweets from fellow outraged tweeters in twitterland (chronological order).
What is ‘stigma’?
Stigma (Stigmata Plural)
A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person
A mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation
Words associated with ‘Stigma’
scar stain blame blemish blot disfigurement disgrace dishonor mark slur spot taint
Schemas– Our belief systems
A representation of a plan or theory in the form of an outline or model: ‘a schema of scientific reasoning’
‘Most importantly for our purposes, schemas and scripts represent the means through which understanding and action are embedded in established institutional environments.’
To understand where we are on this we need to think about where we have come from?
So now we have considered in brief the meaning of ‘stigma’ and ‘Schemas’… what does ‘history’ tell us about how the face of mental ill health has needed to be ‘reshaped’ over the years?
You demon possessed nutter, psycho, looney toon…
Is that the face of ‘mental illness’ or rather a non mental ‘well-ness’?
Well, there was a time when those experiencing self injurious behaviour, hearing voices or displaying behaviour out of the societal ‘norm’ were considered ‘demon possessed’ and PUT TO DEATH, yes, put to death. Here is a good article on this. If not death then they were subjected to trepanation.
So, I guess if you compare 2015 to medieval Britain then we are not doing too badly are we? But this is NOT how we effect ongoing positive change, by looking backwards. We look forwards to advancement, to a better understanding and acceptance of mental health difficulty.
The notion that putting someone to death because they were considered to be ‘demon possessed’ because they did not ‘fit in’ is barbaric, I don’t think that many would disagree with that, or at least I hope not. Although unhealthy and unhelpful schemas or belief systems are passed down through generations, the deeply entrenched ‘belief system’ that was a normal construct of society at one point has improved massively but has not ‘vanished’. The beliefs and depths of stigma have been chipped away at, slowly, over many years but the stench of blood echo’s through until we eradicate the remnants of this barbaric history, together.
Sometimes the hard work of mental health campaigners is set backwards by stigmatising portrayals in the media or via other large institutions. Some examples include:
- Scarily blatant stigma on the Halloween edition of the Xfactor 2014.
- Example of stigma within health services directly.
- Example of mental health learning institutions reinforcing stigma, albeit unintentionally.
Mental Health is ‘everyone’s business’ and reducing stigma is ‘everyone’s’ responsibility.