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Impacts of Mental Illness and Stigma on the Individual and Family Members

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Health And Social Care
Wordcount: 2317 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Impacts of Mental Illness and Stigma on the Individual and Family Members




Along with the direct impacts of mental illness, all Canadians are indirectly affected by mental illness through a family member, friend or colleague (MCHA, 2019). This review of literature will focus on all individuals affected by mental illnesses and the impacts on their social life, willingness to seek treatment, and their workplace roles. Various studies have been conducted regarding the impacts of stigma on one’s social life, confirming that “42% of Canadians were unsure whether they would socialize with a friend who has a mental illness”. (CAMH, 2008). The stigma surrounding mental illness may also impede one from seeking proper care. Due to the stigmatization of mental illness, many suffering are not seeking treatment which becomes a “major barrier to recovery” (Yeh, Jewell, & Thomas, 2017). Workplaces have also become stigmatized, causing many to feel uncomfortable as well as unemployed. Préville et al. (2015), found that 76.3% of individuals reported they would not hire someone who had a mental health problem.

Social Life:

 Individuals affected by mental illness face many social challenges. One study conducted by highschool students suggested that social distance regarding mental illness is simply due to the lack of knowledge with respect to mental health (Bulanda, Bruhn & Zentmyer,  2014). The study involved 57 middle school students and was conducted twice; before and then after a lesson on mental illness. The first test found that 44.8% of the students would be afraid to talk to someone with a mental health problem, and 39.0% of the students would make close friends with someone with mental health problems. After the lesson the test found that 81.0% of students would be afraid to talk to someone with a mental health problem, and 55.9% of students would make close friends with someone with mental health problems. Although the majority of students after the lesson would be afraid to befriend someone with mental health issues, this study suggests that the lack of knowledge surrounding this topic results in the exclusion and social distancing from those suffering from mental health issues. (Bulanda, Bruhn & Zentmyer,  2014).

Smilarily, the social exclusion of those with mental health issues are even prevalent in high schools. Fritz. G.K (2013) found that in a study involving over 300 adolescents, similar patterns of stigmatization toward other students were already established by highschool.

 On the other hand, individuals suffering from mental health problems also tend to isolate themselves from their social circles. According to Thompson and Park (2016), individuals living with eating disorders often conceal their illnesses to avoid stigmatization. However, this desire for concealment can lead to withdrawal from social circles and daily routines. Moreover, family members of individuals with a mental illness are stigmatized through many prejudices within their social circles (Muralidharan, Lucksted,  Medoff, Fang & Dixon, 2016). Muralidharan et al. (2016), found that having a close relative with a mental health problem can have “negative effects on one’s work and social functioning.” Some prejudices include, being blamed for their family member’s illness, being thought of as crazy because they are associated with someone who is mentally ill and poor parenting (Muralidharan, Lucksted,  Medoff, Fang & Dixon, 2016)

Research does confirm that “knowing or interacting with someone who suffers from a mental health problem increases their social acceptance.” (Zalazar et al., 2018). According to Zalazar et al., (2018), having meaningful contact with someone with a mental health problem is linked to having a more positive attitude toward all individuals impacted. They found that 67%

of individuals would be willing to continue a relationship with a friend who has become impacted by a mental health problem.

Willingness to Seek Treatment:

 The stigma around mental illness puts individuals at risk for not seeking help for themselves or for helping their peers (Bulanda, Bruhn & Zentmyer, 2014). Bulanda, Bruhn and Zentmyer, (2014), found that after reviewing 13 studies dealing with adolescent help-seeking behaviors, public and self-stigma were among the top barriers to seeking help.

Moreover, compared to developed countries, the highest prevalence is in developing countries, where 75% of mentally ill patients are not receiving treatment, simply due to the stigma surrounding mental health services (Al , Alqurneh, Dalky, and Al-Omari, 2017). A study among Arab populations found that negative attitudes toward mental health services influence their help-seeking behaviors. Al , Alqurneh, Dalky, and Al-Omari, (2017) found that in this study of 482 participants, only 8.1% have used mental health services in the past three years, while 91.9% of participants had never visited any. This study suggests that the stigmatization of mental illness significantly impedes the willingness of one to seek proper treatment.

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Additionally, many individuals are refusing help even before being officially diagnosed with a mental health disorder, due to the stigmatization behind mental health treatment. According to Mood Disorders Society of Canada in 2014, 79% of people who reported suffering from depression had never seen a physician to be diagnosed (Georgopoulos, M. 2017). Similarly, 40% of respondents to a 2016 survey agreed they have experienced feelings of anxiety or depression but never sought medical help for it (CAMH, n.d.). Due to the fear of being judged and discriminated against by society, individuals are refusing this beneficial treatment early on.

Workplace Roles:

 Individuals affected by mental illness face stigma from their employers and colleagues, ultimately altering their self-identity and ability to work. The participation of individuals affected by a mental illness has become increasingly lower. Nardodkar et al. (2016), found that the unemployment rate among those living with mental health problems ranges from 70–90%.

Stigma in the workplace can also cause many affected individuals to feel uncomfortable, whether directly or indirectly impacted by mental illness. A CAMH study found that 64% of Ontario workers would be concerned about how work would be affected if a colleague had a mental illness, and 39% of Ontario workers indicate that they would not tell their managers if they were experiencing a mental health problem (CAMH, 2015).

Denial of job opportunities is an everyday reality for many individuals with mental health problems (Douglas, 2013). According to Douglas (2013), most employers offer employee assistance programs, however, the services continue to be under-used by workers due to the stigma around mental illness. Thus, taking the stigma out of therapy can benefit employees and help keep them from feeling different or being scared of discrimination if they choose to seek that support. Similarly, a 2016 report stated that only about 17% of organizations in Canada have even started implementing the standards of mental health practices, and 42% of employees feel that their workplace is doing poorly in dealing with mental health issues (Georgopoulos, M. 2017).


 The impacts that stigma has on all individuals who are affected by mental health issues are extensive. Bulanda, Bruhn, Byro-Johnson, &Zentmyer (2014), stated that the stigma around mental illness could “leave youths even more isolated as they experience rejection from their peers.” Furthermore, “due to the stigma and one’s desire to avoid these negative emotions, individuals may refuse treatment” (Bulanda, Bruhn & Zentmyer,  2014). Research has also shown that employers and employees would greatly benefit from fostering a psychologically healthy and inclusive work environment (CAMH, n.d.). Although 81% of Canadians are more aware of mental health issues compared to five years ago, the stigmatization of mental illness is still prevalent and significantly impacts one’s social life, willingness to seek treatment, as well as their role in the workplace. (CAMH, n.d.)




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