The Importance of Acceptance and Civility

Research by Rose et al. (2011) found that the experience of stigma and/or discrimination was widespread among 75 individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia who had been recruited from 15 different countries. However, the research also identified reports by participants highlighting occasions when a diagnosis of schizophrenia appeared to confer perceived benefits for the participants (referred to as incidences of positive discrimination by the authors). However, Rose et al. (2011) noted that these apparent experiences of ‘positive discrimination’ tended to actually involve the person being treated the way a person should normally expect to be treated in a civil society. In other words, participants tended to perceive evidence of civility from others as an advantage of their diagnosis rather than a fundamental right. Rose et al. (2011) observed that the absence of anticipated discrimination leaves individuals with mental health difficulties ‘feeling grateful.’ This highlights the potential benefits that may come from supporting members of the public to act with civility and acceptance towards those experiencing mental health difficulties. Particular stakeholders such as community leaders may have an important role to contribute to this process. It is important to appreciate that particular cultural practices and events will provide symbolic gravitas for demonstrating the acceptance of people with mental health problems. An anecdotal example of this is provided from a Sibling Series e-mail communication of Families Alliance on Mental Illness (FACEMI) (Nirmala 2015) in which a father described the inclusion of his son who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in the wedding festivities of the younger sibling. Wedding celebrations in the Indian context involve a lot of rituals in a community context. According to the man’s father, this social inclusion was possible because of

‘[affection of friends and relatives, cooperation of bride’s parents, planning proper medication, allocating responsibilities, ... ignoring his mistakes and appreciating even the little work.’ (Ibid.)

A review of qualitative research studies investigating stigma experienced by individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia (Mestdagh and Hansen 2013) concluded that community mental health care professionals have a key role to play in raising awareness about mental health-related stigma in health services and the broader community so as to optimize the acceptance of clients in society. Specifically, the authors suggested that community mental health care professionals should act to empower individuals with mental health difficulties to strengthen their ability to function well in the community (Mestdagh and Hansen 2013).

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