Mental Health Professionals Stigmatize People With Mental Illness

Sadly there is a host of peer-reviewed research which highlight the reality that mental health professionals stigmatise people with mental health problems.

Although this is a disturbing finding, being on the receiving end of it is far worse. I have experienced this as an inpatient, as an outpatient and also in general.

I’m aware of these attitudes, but today I perceived stigmatisation by a former mental health professional. Yes some of my photography is disturbing, yes I’m aware of this, but do I have to hide my lived reality, whether past or present, so as not to offend you? No! My lived experience is real, and as a visual artist I will retain my authenticity, even if you believe it to be attention seeking. It isn’t, but to describe it so only increases the social exclusion that exacerbates mental health problems in the first place.

At some point in the future I will write a photo essay which explores stigmatisation by mental health care and general health care professionals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16445483/

https://academic.oup.com/schizophreniabulletin/article/32/4/709/1934707

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0840470416679413

45 Replies to “Mental Health Professionals Stigmatize People With Mental Illness”

  1. I hate the stigmatization of people suffering with mental health issues by our society, Richard, and I think it’s great that you talk about it, and remain true to yourself in your photography. As someone who has dealt with mental health issues in my entire family, I know how hard it is.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It’s been my experience that some and certainly not all mental health professionals have issues that need to be addressed themselves. And, just because they have credentials does not make them effective therapists. Some are actually toxic. The sad thing is, it’s takes a while to recognize it and by then, you’ve invested time and money needlessly.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Indeed. And sadly there are good professionals who are dedicated, right minded and hard working who can become tarnished because of those whose behaviour is wholly unacceptable.

        Professionals can be wrong, as can everyone at times. Furthermore as new research and understandings emerge there must be a commitment to change outdated practice.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Shamefully, health systems have historically neglected mental health needs. If mental health had received the research, investment, finance and public commitment as cancer (as one example) all those with MH needs would be in a far better position.
    There is some evidence that attitudes are shifting, and although the promised extra NHS investment is far too little it is a start I hope.
    Far more serious is the stigmatisation and worse shown to those in need by so called health professionals. I am very sorry indeed that you have again been exposed to this wholly unacceptable behaviour Richard. Your art and writing is brave , innovative and a valuable way of communicating your experience. Thank you for it. I would hope your work could be widely shared with health professionals as part of their education.
    Please keep posting

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thankyou Sarah, and I do believe that attitudes are shifting. I believe, from my own experience, that mental health care is of a much higher standard than it was 20 years ago.

      But having recently been the victim of proven neglect by the mental health services my trauma has been triggered today. I’m feeling a lot calmer now.

      My tutor has put me in touch with a photographer who works with people experiencing mental health problems, and he’s just where I will be living.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Tbh, I wasn’t aware until now. Previously I though to seeking professional help for my mental health, but yes I will think twice before doing so, as you words made me wonder,
    “We aren’t sick, but sometimes we are made sick.”

    Very well written. And a big thanks to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankyou. And please don’t let me put you off seeking or recieving help. There are some wonderful mental health services out there, and some wonderful mental health staff as well. There are those that are incrediy damaging, but we must not let a few rotten eggs keep us away from the help we need. Just be cautious, know your rights and never be afraid to speak up.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. That is a very disturbing finding and I am sorry that you have found this to be the case.
    I have to say that my own experience was that the professionals with whom I had dealings were extremely sympathetic and very helpful in treating my condition, so please do not be put off seeking help if you need it.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Many mental health providers are trained to assess an individual as a problem, or puzzle, they have a responsibility to solve. Many come at it as if they are in a superior position to the patient. Another thing is that you are a necessary product for them to continue being employed. Similar to a forester who comes upon a stand of trees, many mental health providers see you as board lumber who needs to shaped into a saleable form, not as a living being who needs sun, water, and nourishment to live. What many don’t understand about the mental health field is the foundation that they are PAID and the question you need to ask is who is paying them and why. They can be useful to help sort things out, and many generally do no harm, but remember they are people just like you, no more and no less. Richard, I’m sorry you were triggered by a jerk who stigmatized you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Quite a shocking finding. I expected mental health professionals to be the most caring and significant people against stereotyping. But there r alot of exceptions
    But awareness is increasing. Especially in my country where initially, a therapist or psychiatrist was considered “pagallon ka doctor”, i.e doctor for crazy people, people are becoming more aware of mental health and how to nurture it. I myself became aware of it recently ever since my mom became a therapist
    I’m not a professional but i agree with the people who commented. Ur art and photography is a great way to express urself, what u’ve been thru, what ur feeling and what u aspire to become. My sister is into art as well and it has helped her learn alot about herself, accept and improve herself. I see no need for u to give it up 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Richard – since starting the course and bringing your history to light in your photo’s and other works you have made great strides in your own recovery. Also you get a lot of support from non professionals and positive vibes from their comments. Keep doing what you are doing – it obviously is working for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankyou so much Dave. I feel like a different person because of my creativity. I often reflect upon the support which I have recieved from my study peers and online community. You guys have given me a lifeline, a space to exist and be myself. Thankyou

      Liked by 1 person

  9. As a former mental health worker, it is refreshing to come across blogs such as yours that destigmatise the lived experience of mental health. I have been trying to find a blog I came across some time ago without any success. I seem to have lost the link. If I remember correctly it contained the word Hope. A couple of years ago they posted a series of black and white photographs on self harm that were very striking and graphic.
    Keep up the good work. There will always be those who don’t like it for whatever reason. Don’t let it get you down.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thankyou so much. Its hard to deal with criticism at times. I think it’s because it brings up the feelings of unworthyness that developed from being ignored and invalidated during my childhood. But I keep doing my best to be me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are times when we are all vulnerable due to past experiences and traumas. Recognising and validating those experiences is a good step forward. Gratitude and thankfulness for the learning they brought to us is another step. As is forgiveness for self and others. Onward and upward. You’re doing so well 💖

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Attention seeking. How flipping ridiculous. We are told to let things out, express ourselves. And then we are told to be mindful of how we let things out/express ourselves. Enough to drive a person with mental-health issues crazy. I’m all for revealing demons… I’m all for seeing what’s real. Refuse to sugar-coat. Don’t stop showing these beautiful-ugly things. The world is already stuffed full of daisies and meadows and pretty things to see. While these pretty things have their place in the world, they don’t have a place in my world because they don’t touch me. Your work touches me, Richard.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m so glad that you didn’t own someone else’s “truth“. I find your work to be extremely creative and honest and it just really touches my heart because of my own journey with my panic disorder and my weight and my food problems. I have been on the receiving end of some bad treatment by a mental health professional. It nearly cost me my life. Keep being ⭐️ your beautiful self ⭐️ and speaking your truth. You inspire me Richard every time I read you. 💕.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. {{{{{{{{Richard}}}}}}}} Every prayer, every share, every kind word, every good thought sent for our Benny – it all helps. Thank you. And I’m very grateful to you, Richard, for what you wrote about me inspiring you. It feels great to know that I have, and also terrifying in case I can’t keep doing it. *flails* ♥.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I was a social worker for years and have also carried the Bipolar 1 diagnosis since age 17. As a former provider and life long consumer of mental health services I was blown away daily at the prejudices and constant reproduction of mental health stigma. A former co-worker, a licensed clinical social worker once told our entire office, “I’ve come to find out that these people (patients) aren’t as stupid as I thought they were … they’re just too lazy to work so they’re poor”. And I was reprimanded for criticizing his remarks. I can’t for the day when we’re just people

    Liked by 3 people

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