Stigma of mental illness

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Assignment for Abnormal Psychology. Describe the broad differences among three forms of mental illness, how to educate the client, how to educate the family, and how to help reduce stigma.



Stigma of Mental Illness

Stigma of Mental Illness
Daisy Taboada
CNDV 5350
Lamar University

Stigma of Mental Illness
Stigma of Mental Illness
As counselors, we will be working with individuals who are experiencing a mental
disorder or know someone who has. In order to effectively help these clients, we must
be aware of the stigma attached to mental health and how it impacts our client’s wellbeing and treatment progress. In this paper, I will focus on three specific disorders:
Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and Dissociative Identity Disorder. First, I will go over
some of the broad differences between these disorders. Next, I will address how we can
help to educate our client’s and their families about mental disorders. Lastly, I will
describe the actions I will take to help reduce stigma towards mental illness.
Broad Differences between Three Forms of Mental Illness
Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and dissociative identity disorder all share similar
symptoms, which can lead to confusion and misdiagnosis. Thus, it is also important to
be able to distinguish these disorders from each other. There has been extensive
research on bipolar disorder and, with proper treatment, individuals are able to lead
“normal lives” and develop healthy relationships. By contrast, schizophrenia has less
favorable prospects as many people with this disorder struggle with remaining in
treatment. Due to the symptoms of this disorder, such as hearing voices, individuals
have difficulty functioning in society and are unable to keep employment. In addition,
comorbid disorders (such as depression) are usually due to the schizophrenia itself.
Individuals with dissociative identity disorder (DID) also hear voices; however,
these voices belong to their different identities. The impact of DID on an individual’s life
varies-for some these identities help them cope with life, for others their different

Stigma of Mental Illness
identities take over. Similar to schizophrenia, depression in these individuals is
secondary to DID. The main difference between schizophrenia and DID is that people
with schizophrenia do not have different identities. The voices they (schizophrenia) hear
belong to others). In addition, people with DID do not experience delusions or
hallucinations and the voices they hear are a part of them.
Educating the Client
Individuals with mental illness may need additional assistance in treating and
managing their disorder. Counselors can help them by providing education, such as
different treatment and medication options. Some clients may be resistant to the idea of
medication due to the negative connotations associated with mental health. Counselors
can help reduce this stigma by discussing the nature of their disorder and the possible
side effects of prescription medications. In addition, counselors can dispel myths related
to mental illness and help the client normalize mental illness as something that is a part
of them, but not all of them.
Educating the Family
Family beliefs and opinions can play an important role in a person’s decision to
seek treatment for mental illness. As discussed earlier, the stigma of mental illness often
prevents individuals from getting help. Counselors can address some of the barriers that
may present within the family by providing education to help them understand how
mental illness occurs (genes, chemistry, etc.) and the importance of treatment.
Specifically, families need to know that treatment can be a lengthy process and may
need to be adjusted before positive results are seen. In addition, counselors can

Stigma of Mental Illness
discuss how mental illness can affect the rest of the family and provide information on
resources, such as support groups, to help themselves as well.
Reducing Stigma
Although there has been increased awareness in reducing mental health stigma
many individuals with a mental disorder still experience negative effects, such as
exclusion from social spheres and discrimination in employment. This stigma also
affects their emotional health by causing feelings of shame. As counselors, the first step
we should take is to examine our own beliefs and biases towards mental illness. Thus,
we will better equipped to see our clients as who they are, a whole person, and not as
their disorder. This unconditional positive regard and empathy can help reduce some of
the shame and embarrassment clients may feel. Counselors can also work to promote
education of mental illness through the use of literature, presentations, and mental
health awareness events (Penn & Couture, 2002).

Stigma of Mental Illness
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental
disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author
Butcher, J. N., Mineka, S., & Hooley, J. M. (2012). Abnormal psychology (15th ed).
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson
Families and friends of people affected by mental illness. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Penn, D. L., & Couture, S. M. (2002). Strategies for reducing stigma toward persons
with mental illness. World Psychiatry, 1(1), 20-21.
Shallcross, L. (2012). Client, counselor, prescriber. Counseling Today. Retrieved from

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