Addressing Mental Health-related Stigma in a Global Context

Ross G. White, Padmavati Ramachandran, and Shuba Kumar

The Mental Health Action Plan 2013—2020 (WHO 2013) states that ‘because of stigmatization and discrimination, persons with mental disorders often have their human rights violated and many are denied economic, social and cultural rights, with restrictions on the rights to work and education, as well as reproductive rights and the right to the highest attainable standard of health’ (p. 8). Indeed, the vision statement included in the document concludes that people experiencing mental health difficulties should be supported to ‘participate fully in society and at work free from stigmatization and discrimination’ (p. 32). The importance of tackling stigma linked to mental health difficulties was also highlighted in the Grand Challenges for Global Mental Health (Collins et al. 2011), which state that there is a need to ‘[d]evelop culturally informed methods to eliminate the stigma, discrimination and social exclusion of patients and families across cultural settings’ (p. 29). In view of the compelling influence that stigma can exert on the lives of individuals experiencing mental health difficulties and their carers, this chapter reflects on how global mental health (GMH) initiatives might address this important issue.

R. G. White (*)

Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK P Ramachandran

Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF), Chennai, India

S. Kumar

Samarth, Chennai, India © The Author(s) 2017

R.G. White et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Sociocultural Perspectives on Global Mental Health, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-39510-8_13

Over the course of the chapter, emphasis will be placed on defining different aspects of the experience of stigma and understanding particular aspects of the experience of mental health difficulties that predispose individuals to being stigmatized. Research evidence that highlights the scale of mental health-related stigma will be highlighted. The impact that stigma has on individuals and carers will be discussed, including detrimental impacts on helpseeking behaviour, interpersonal relationships and employment prospects, as well as the potential for the emotional impact of the experience of stigma to compound existing mental health difficulties. Finally, the chapter will reflect on campaigns that have been launched to reduce mental health-related stigma and the implications that the evaluation of these programmes has for GMH initiatives. A recurring theme throughout these topics is the limited amount of research that has been conducted in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) relative to high-income countries (HICs).

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