What is Social Stigma?
There are so many misconceptions about mental disorder and one of those inaccurate notions is the belief that all mentally ills are violent individuals. For us as a society that should naturally exist in a symbiotic social and ecosystem, this stereotype is a huge challenge as it posits a very unhealthy outlook towards this population. This generalization to people with mental health challenges oftentimes ends up on discrimination; a type of negative emotion or a negative so-called affect toward a certain individual. This kind of stigma against mental health is now a major concern almost everywhere in the world. So just because one is afraid of the mentally ills, one hides from them, therefore has prejudice against them.
Discrediting of one person (by the society for example) while also having an irrational cognition on them, associated with other components is called social stigma; some kind of an extreme disapproval or denial to someone. For example, there is also a very widely shared belief in America that many Asians are job stealers. This dimension, related to racial issue, is leading some Americans to discomfort and distrust towards Asians for “stealing their jobs” and disrupting their economy. So consequently, if not properly addressed and given intervention, it can lead to social tensions and unrest or upheaval. This is because of the changes in the behaviour that has also resulted to discrimination.
Three Examples of Institutional Impacts of Social Stigma
1. Mental Health
People who are having difficult mental condition are some of the populations we society sometimes forget. As a person, it is normal for many of us to feel connected to the whole and when one feel rejected by the society because of how that society perceive his or her condition (at this example people who have mental issues), typically they withdraw from the society and isolate themselves so they won’t get bothered anymore by how society judges them or their condition. This is very counterproductive to the individual and to the population of patients as a whole that is why this stigma must be stopped and instead, people who are having difficult mental condition should be supported socially and medically in a non-toxic and non-harming way.
In a society where being gay or lesbian is still forbidden (and sometimes looked with so much resentment), self-stigmatization can also happen. For example, a person who is a lesbian or a gay might also develop negative notions in his mind because of the society’s damaging stereotypes that are strongly present in his or her environment. In some cases, the person also blames him or herself for the condition and completely gives in to the negative perception of the culture where he’s present. Because of this he or she might also try to avoid socializing so much to hide the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings he has within his self. As long as there are no appropriate interventions, this kind of internalization will continue to remain as a detrimental social stigma.
Some patients who are having a very serious and controversial illness (such as HIV or AIDS) are also experiencing the disadvantageous impacts of social stigma. Because of so many negative conceptions and misconceptions attached to the disease, many patients of this kind commit self-sabotage and deny themselves treatment and professional help by denying to themselves that they have the condition.
So those are some of the political dimensions or institutions social stigma affects seriously. For sure there are other unaddressed issues and areas and those could also reveal more factors. But in so many levels, effective interventions should be given immediately to these aspects so that these problems and the likes can be solved and instead, serve its real purpose to the society: to make the society better and not sicker. As you can see, social stigma is very harmful and it’s not only limited to the society or group stigmatizing the individual but also the individual stigmatizing him or herself, which is called internalization.