Exploring Experiences of Stigma and Discrimination
Stigma and discrimination continue to be important topics discussed by health care professionals as these issues continue to be barriers to the quality of life and access to mental health services of people with mental illness. Stigma and discrimination can have significant effects on a person’s ability to get the support and/or treatment they need in order to recover or manage their mental illness.
Health professionals can also be unaware of their own behaviours and how they might contribute to a person feeling stigmatized. In fact, people who seek services from mental health professionals can often report them as among the most stigmatizing groups (Arboleda-Flórez & Stuart, 2012). Additionally, mental health professionals can also experience being stigmatized because of their work in the area of mental health and can report feeling devalued, rejected or excluded from the broader health sector.
Studies have found that one of the most effective ways to reduce stigma and challenge stereotypes and myths about people with mental illness is direct personal contact with someone with a lived experience.
Reflect on the perspectives discussed in IWK Health Centre’s Stigma and Mental Illness and how stigma can impact the experiences of people with a mental illness, their families and their health care providers.
Seek out an expert informant (person living with a mental illness/substance use disorder or recovered from a mental illness/substance use disorder—or a professional mental health care service provider). Explain the focus of your topic, the open-ended nature of your interview, and seek consent for an interview and to reflect on the interview for your assignment. Use this consent form to gain consent. Consider asking questions that explore:
1. how they understand/define stigma and discrimination
2. describe a situation when/if they have felt stigmatised, or perhaps seen someone else be stigmatised because of their mental illness
3. how the above situation made them feel
4. what do they feel could have been done differently in the negative situation so that they didn’t feel stigmatised? (I.e. explore a situation where they felt good and/or accepted? What did that feel like, what were the features of the situation/interaction that contributed to that feeling?)
Summarize the interview and identify key quotes or themes from the interview.
Consider the similarities and differences between the IWK Health Centre’s Stigma and Mental Illness, and your own interview informant’s experiences. Review current definitions of stigma and how they relate to the findings in your interview. Identify and explore at least three strategies that could be adopted by individuals or health care services that could have reduced the experiences of stigma associated with mental health of the person interviewed.
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