Mental Health and Stigma

A Difficult Issue?

Many people find it difficult to talk about mental health. This is because there are powerful taboos that surround the subject. Mental health is seen as a complex and scary topic. Stigma is defined as a mark of shame or disgrace and can refer to negative attitudes toward health problems and other conditions.

When it comes to mental illness, stigma exists for several possible reasons. Media – like TV, movies, and newspapers – sometimes misrepresent people with mental disorders because they don’t have accurate information or they want to create more interesting stories. For example, people with mental illnesses are often portrayed as dangerous or out of control, though research shows this is rarely the case.

Just like people with other illnesses like asthma, people who are dealing with mental health problems have nothing to feel ashamed of – and the wisest, most courageous way to cope is to seek and stay in treatment.


stigma diagram 1


What can be done to challenge stigma?

  • Bring mental illness into the open and think about it like other illnesses or conditions.
  • Educate the community to overcome attitudes based on misconceptions.
    Promote mental health by nourishing healthy attitudes through early childhood and adult life, and learn ways to deal with trauma in relationships, situations and events.
  • Encourage research into mental illnesses to assist understanding of how these illnesses affect people and how they can be prevented.
  • Assist friends and relatives with a mental illness to obtain care and treatment.
  • Talk about mental illnesses openly with everyone you meet – it is surprising how many people are affected by mental illness, but have been too afraid of rejection to discuss it openly.
  • Provide high-quality support and treatment services that enable people with a mental illness to participate fully in all aspects of community life.
  • Address discrimination in every area of life, including employment, education and the provision of goods, services and facilities.
    Sometimes people avoid talking about mental health because they are unsure what kind of language or what words to use. Also, certain language that is common in our culture can have negative consequences. Offensive words like “loony,” “psycho,” or “crazy,” though they may seem harmless, can be hurtful and help to fuel stigma. Knowing what language to use can help increase people’s confidence and improve communication about mental health.


In General

  • Be positive, Choose the positive over the negative and avoid using words which put people in the position of victims.
  • Remember that foremost people are people and should not be labeled because of one characteristic or experience.


stigma diagram 2


try saying this… 

mental health problems/mental ill health
living with…
(mental health problems, schizophrenia etc.)
Suffering from…
(mental health problems/schizophrenia etc.) Schizophrenics, depressives

as opposed to this…

Mental Illness

Suffering from…
(mental health problems/schizophrenia etc.)Schizophrenics, depressives

Learning the facts about mental health and spreading accurate information helps to decrease stigma and promote understanding. This is especially important because at its worst, stigma can stop people with mental illnesses from getting the help they need. You have to decide for yourself what you believe about mental health. But remember, your thoughts and attitudes matter.



Mental Illness & Children

At school if a Child is suffering from mental illness they may be perceived as being weird, stupid or Crazy. This can be due to a lack of understanding by other children and therefore stigma can develop. Children experiencing mental illness have increased over the last 10 years. At the moment there is no statutory requirement to teach about mental illness in schools although this could be a away to understand more about mental illness and reduce stigma among children.


How to Promote Good Mental Health  For Your Child

  • Lots of love and support from family
  • Make sure your child feels safe and secure
  • It is healthy for your child to mix with other children
  • Build up there self confidence with praise and encouragement
  • Supportive teachers at school to encourage learning
  • Joining different activities outside of school
  • Giving the right guidance and discipline to your child when appropriate.


Some Mental Illnesses Children can suffer from

  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder

Read More information about this article upon BBC website by clicking here


What is Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome (AS) is a developmental disorder that is characterized by:

  • Limited interests or an unusual preoccupation with a particular subject to the exclusion of other activities
  • Repetitive routines or rituals
  • Peculiarities in speech and language, such as speaking in an overly formal manner or in a monotone, or taking figures of speech literally
  • Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability to interact successfully with peers
  • Problems with non-verbal communication, including the restricted use of gestures, limited or inappropriate facial expressions, or a peculiar, stiff gaze
  • Clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements


Why is it called Asperger syndrome

In 1944, an Austrian pediatrician named Hans Asperger observed four children in his practice who had difficulty integrating socially. Although their intelligence appeared normal, the children lacked nonverbal communication skills, failed to demonstrate empathy with their peers, and were physically clumsy. Their way of speaking was either disjointed or overly formal, and their all-absorbing interest in a single topic dominated their conversations. Dr. Asperger called the condition “autistic psychopathy” and described it as a personality disorder primarily marked by social isolation.

Asperger’s observations, published in German, were not widely known until 1981, when an English doctor named Lorna Wing published a series of case studies of children showing similar symptoms, which she called “Asperger’s” syndrome. Wing’s writings were widely published and popularized. AS became a distinct disease and diagnosis in 1992, when it was included in the tenth published edition of the World Health Organization’s diagnostic manual, International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), and in 1995 it was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic reference book.


What causes AS Is it genetic

Twin and family studies suggest there is a genetic vulnerability to AS and the other ASDs, but a specific gene for AS hasn’t been identified. It is likely that multiple genes cause AS, since the symptoms and the severity of symptoms vary so widely among individuals. Researchers recently identified an association between certain behavioral traits (the insistence on strict routines and repetitive behavior) in a group of children with autism and a specific gene – GABRB3. Another study discovered a strong association between autism and the mutation of a gene the researchers call ENGRAILED 2. Additional evidence for the link between inheritable genetic mutations and AS is seen in the higher incidence of family members of children with an ASD who have similar behavioral symptoms, but in a more limited form. For example they may have mild social, language, or reading problems. Current research points to structural abnormalities in the brain as a cause of AS. These abnormalities impact neural circuits that control thought and behavior. Researchers think that gene/environment interactions cause some genes to turn on or turn off, or turn on too much or too little in the wrong places, and this interferes with the normal migration and wiring of embryonic brain cells during early development.


What are some common signs or symptoms

The most distinguishing symptom of AS is a child’s obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other. Some children with AS have become experts on vacuum cleaners, makes and models of cars, even objects as odd as deep fat fryers. Children with AS want to know everything about their topic of interest and their conversations with others will be about little else. Their expertise, high level of vocabulary, and formal speech patterns make them seem like little professors. Children with AS will gather enormous amounts of factual information about their favorite subject and will talk incessantly about it, but the conversation may seem like a random collection of facts or statistics, with no point or conclusion.


How is it diagnosed

The diagnosis of AS is complicated by the lack of a standardized diagnostic screen or schedule. In fact, because there are several screening instruments in current use, each with different criteria, the same child could receive different diagnoses, depending on the screening tool the doctor uses.

To further complicate the issue, some doctors believe that AS is not a separate and distinct disorder. Instead, they call it high-functioning autism (HFA), and view it as being on the mild end of the ASD spectrum with symptoms that differ — only in degree — from classic autism. Some clinicians use the two diagnoses, AS or HFA, interchangeably. This makes gathering data about the incidence of AS difficult, since some children will be diagnosed with HFA instead of AS, and vice versa. Most doctors rely on the presence of a core group of behaviors to alert them to the possibility of a diagnosis of AS. These are

  • Aloofness
  • The failure to turn when called by name
  • The failure to use gestures to point or show
  • A lack of interactive play
  • A lack of interest in peers


Are there treatments available

The ideal treatment for AS coordinates therapies that address the three core symptoms of the disorder: poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. There is no single best treatment package for all children with AS, but most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better. An effective treatment program builds on the child’s interests, offers a predictable schedule, teaches tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engages the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provides regular reinforcement of behavior. This kind of program generally includes: social skills training, a form of group therapy that teaches children with AS the skills they need to interact more successfully with other children cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of “talk” therapy that can help the more explosive or anxious children to manage their emotions better and cut back on obsessive interests and repetitive routines medication, for co-existing conditions such as depression and anxiety occupational or physical therapy, for children with sensory integration problems or poor motor coordination specialize speech/language therapy, to help children who have trouble with the pragmatics of speech – the give and take of normal conversation parent training and support, to teach parents behavioral techniques to use at home.


Do children with AS get better What happens when they become adults?

With effective treatment, children with AS can learn to cope with their disabilities, but they may still find social situations and personal relationships challenging. Many adults with AS are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs, although they may continue to need encouragement and moral support to maintain an independent life.


What is autism

Autism is not a disease, but a developmental disorder of brain function. People with classical autism show three types of symptoms: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication and imagination, and unusual or severely limited activities and interests. Symptoms of autism usually appear during the first three years of childhood and continue throughout life. Although there is no cure, appropriate management may foster relatively normal development and reduce undesirable behaviors. People with autism have a normal life expectancy.

Autism affects an estimated two to 10 of every 10,000 people. A small percentage of people with autism are savants. These people have limited but extraordinary skills in areas like music, mathematics, drawing, or visualization.


What are some common signs of autism

The hallmark feature of autism is impaired social interaction. Children with autism may fail to respond to their names and often avoid looking at other people. Such children often have difficulty interpreting tone of voice or facial expressions and do not respond to others’ emotions or watch other people’s faces for cues about appropriate behavior. They appear unaware of others’ feelings toward them and of the negative impact of their behavior on other people. People with autism often have abnormal responses to sounds, touch, or other sensory stimulation. Many show reduced sensitivity to pain. They also may be extraordinarily sensitive to other sensations. These unusual sensitivities may contribute to behavioral symptoms such as resistance to being cuddled.


How is autism diagnosed

Autism is classified as one of the pervasive developmental disorders. Some doctors also use terms such as “emotionally disturbed” to describe people with autism. Because it varies widely in its severity and symptoms, autism may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected individuals or in those with multiple handicaps. Researchers and therapists have developed several sets of diagnostic criteria for autism. Some frequently used criteria include:

  • Absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
  • Impaired ability to make friends with peers
  • Impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
  • Stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language
  • Restricted patterns of interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus
  • Apparently inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals


What causes autism

Autism has no single cause. Researchers believe several genes, as well as environmental factors such as viruses or chemicals, contribute to the disorder. Studies of people with autism have found abnormalities in several regions of the brain, including the cerebellum, amygdala, hippocampus, septum, and mammillary bodies. Neurons in these regions appear smaller than normal and have stunted nerve fibers, which may interfere with nerve signaling. These abnormalities suggest that autism results from disruption of normal brain development early in fetal development. Other studies suggest that people with autism have abnormalities of serotonin or other signaling molecules in the brain. While these findings are intriguing, they are preliminary and require further study. The early belief that parental practices are responsible for autism has now been disproved.


What role does genetics play

Recent studies strongly suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to autism. Scientists estimate that, in families with one autistic child, the risk of having a second child with the disorder is approximately five percent, or one in 20, which is greater than the risk for the general population.


Do symptoms of autism change over time

Symptoms in many children with autism improve with intervention or as the children mature. Some people with autism eventually lead normal or near-normal lives. However, reports from parents of children with autism indicate that some children’s language skills regress early in life, usually before age three. This regression often seems linked to epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. Adolescence also worsens behavior problems in some children with autism, who may become depressed or increasingly unmanageable. Parents should be ready to adjust treatment for their child’s changing needs.


How can autism be treated

There is no cure for autism at present. Therapies, or interventions, are designed to remedy specific symptoms in each individual. The best-studied therapies include educational/behavioral and medical interventions. Although these interventions do not cure autism, they often bring about substantial improvement.


Educational/behavioral interventions

These strategies emphasize highly structured and often intensive skill-oriented training that is tailored to the individual child. Therapists work with children to help them develop social and language skills. Because children learn most effectively and rapidly when very young, this type of therapy should begin as early as possible. Recent evidence suggests that early intervention has a good chance of favorably influencing brain development Doctors may prescribe a variety of drugs to reduce self-injurious behavior or other troublesome symptoms of autism, as well as associated conditions such as epilepsy and attention disorders. Most of these drugs affect levels of serotonin or other signaling chemicals in the brain.


What is ADHD

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that affects the parts controlling attention, concentration and impulsive.


Childs Behaviour

This means a child’s behaviour can be anything from being ‘very dreamy’ (or unable to pay attention) through to being ‘always on the go’ (or hyperactive).

A person with ADHD has difficulty filtering out all the information coming into his brain, so he’s easily distracted, tends to respond before he has considered things properly and doesn’t know when to stop.

A child with ADHD will take longer to settle and concentrate than a child without, and may have problems following instructions.

Children with ADHD often have above-average intelligence but find it hard to learn. They often also have problems



The condition is long term and can continue through adult life. There is a genetic component, and children with ADHD often have relatives (frequently male) with ADHD.
It isn’t caused by bad parenting, but a child’s surroundings and support can affect how severe the symptoms are and how well he can learn to deal with them.


What are the symptoms

There are three core symptoms of ADHD:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Inattention

Diagnosis of ADHD symptoms

There is a list of different Behaviours within these groups.
To get a diagnosis of ADHD symptoms must:

  • Have been present for at least six months
  • Have developed before the age of seven.
  • Be greater than expected for the child’s age and intelligence (ie more than just being a busy toddler)
  • Have a significant negative impact in at least two settings, for example at home, work, school. Sometimes parents don’t feel there’s a problem at home, either because they don’t have other children to compare the ADHD child to, or because they’ve adjusted to their child’s behaviour and are handling it well.


Must Not Be Confused with another disorder

Your child must also not have another disorder, eg mood, anxiety or personality, that could cause the same symptoms.
In general, boys tend to show more symptoms of hyperactivity and girls tend to show more symptoms of inattention.


What causes ADHD

Experts believe ADHD is partly due to an imbalance of chemicals that transmit messages to the brain and partly because the areas of the brain that affect behaviour aren’t working properly.
The main factors are:

  • The child’s temperament, which affects attitude and personality.
  • A genetic link – recent studies show that 80-90 per cent of the risk for ADHD is genetic. This is why ADHD tends to run in families.
  • Brain injury, either pre-birth or due to trauma during birth (this is a small percentage of cases).

Certain aspects of the family environment are found more often in children with ADHD, eg family stress. It isn’t clear if these factors can cause ADHD. They may just increase the likelihood that ADHD will develop in a child who is already genetically prone to it.


ADHD is not caused by:

Poor parenting. Parenting styles can affect your child’s behaviour though and, in turn, can affect your ability to manage difficult behaviour.


Diet may help

Dietary supplements such as fish oil may help.


How common is it and who gets it

ADHD is thought to affect around 3 per cent of children, although some studies put the figure as high as 19 per cent. Between 50 and 80 per cent of children with ADHD will still have it as teenagers, and up to 60 per cent of them will still have it as adults. Boys are four times as likely as girls to have ADHD. This may be because the condition is noticed more readily in boys – because they tend to show hyperactive and oppositional symptoms more than girls. As a result, many girls with ADHD remain undiagnosed and untreated.


Getting help

The first port of call is your GP. In children below school age, unless the symptoms are extreme, it’s very difficult to diagnose ADHD. However, once your child starts school, the teacher should be able to assess your child’s behaviour and tell you if it’s very different from the rest of the class.

Your GP will talk to you about your child’s symptoms and medical history, and may refer you to a hospital specialist in developmental disorders for further assessments.
At the same time, your school should ask the local education authority to assess your child for special educational needs – which may involve discussions with educational psychologists, language specialists and occupational therapists.


How is it treated

ADHD is treated by:

  • Behavioural therapy
  • Support at school
  • Medication

Based on a text by Dr Dan Rutherford, GP


Mental illness and The Media

In this day and age it is still surprising how the Media and Television do not accurately portray. A person who is suffering with Mental Ill Health often not showing the recovery of people with mental ill health at all. may be because it is not a juicy big story in the Soaps. When in reality most people who have had or are living with a mental ill health condition are living normal lives in the community and often in this day and age a lot of Mental illness can be controlled with medication Giving the person relief from conditions such as Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia, Bi Polar that give a person better quality of life. A good Idea for people who are recovering with mental ill health is to join a day centre that specializes in mental health. These places are often open door policy which means you don’t need a referral to use the service also carers can use the service. The day centres are often places that you can meet and make friends with other people who are going through similar things. Often in a relaxed friendly atmosphere where you feel you are part of something positive. Where people understand you and don’t judge you. It’s a shame really the Media and television would not focus on this side of mental ill health recovery and have a positive effect on reducing stigma not creating it mental illness does not define a person or their ability of what they can contribute and achieve in life and the hobbies and interests they have each person is unique.


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