The stigmatization of mental health | ZwavelStream Clinic
Understanding Somatic symptom disorder
Understanding Somatic symptom disorder
March 26, 2020
Holistic Mental health recovery & support
April 23, 2020
Understanding Somatic symptom disorder
Understanding Somatic symptom disorder
March 26, 2020
Holistic Mental health recovery & support
April 23, 2020

Mental health in South Africa holds many challenges. On one hand, people struggling with these illnesses struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disease.

On the other, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental health conditions. As a result of both, people with mental health conditions lack the opportunities that define quality of life:

good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people.

Mental health problems are common. They affect thousands of people in South Africa, and their friends, families, work colleagues and society in general.

Did you know?

  • It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health disorder
  • 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental health disorder
  • Depression is the predominant mental health disorder worldwide, followed by anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Research has gone far to understand the effects of mental health, but only recently begun to understand the impacts of stigmatization. Much work needs to be done to fully understand the extent and scope of prejudice against people with mental health conditions. Fortunately, social psychologists and sociologists have been studying phenomena related to stigma in other minority groups for several decades.

In this paper, we integrate research specific to mental health conditions stigma with the more general body of research on stereotypes and prejudice to provide a brief overview of issues in the area.

Stigma can lead to discrimination. Discrimination may be obvious and direct, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental health conditions or your treatment. It may be unintentional or subtle, such as someone avoiding you because the person assumes you could be unstable, violent or dangerous due to your mental health disorder. Because of these stigmas’ some patients can end up judging themselves.

Some of the harmful effects of stigma can include:

  • Reluctance to seek help or treatment
  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others
  • Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment
  • Health insurance that doesn't adequately cover your mental health disorder treatment
  • The belief that you'll never succeed at certain challenges or that you can't improve your situation

Overcome Stigma

In order to minimize stigma in Society, steps should be taken. Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:

Get treatment

You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don't let the fear of being labelled with a mental health condition prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what's wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.

Don't let stigma create self-doubt and shame

Stigma doesn't just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness or that you should be able to control it without help. Seeking counselling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others who manage mental health disorders can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.

Don't isolate yourself

If you have a mental health conditions, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, clergy or members of your community can offer you support if they know about your mental health conditions. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support and understanding you need.

Don't equate yourself with your illness

You are not your condition. So instead of saying "I'm bipolar," say "I have bipolar disorder." Instead of calling yourself "Depressive", say "I have depression."

Join a support group

Some local and national groups offer local programs and internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people who have mental health conditions, their families and the general public.

Get help at school

If you or your child have a mental health condition that affects learning, find out what plans and programs might help. Discrimination against students because of a mental health condition is against the law, and educators at primary, secondary and college levels are required to accommodate students as best they can. Talk to teachers, professors or administrators about the best approach and resources. If a teacher doesn't know about a student's disability, it can lead to discrimination, barriers to learning and poor grades.

Speak out against stigma

Consider expressing your opinions at events, in letters to editors or on the internet. It can help instil courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental health conditions.

Challenging stigma associated with mental health conditions

Everyone has a role to play in creating a mentally healthy community – one that is inclusive, rejects discrimination and supports recovery.

Ways to help include:

  • Learning the facts about symptoms and conditions and sharing them with family, friends, work colleagues and classmates
  • Get to know people with personal experiences of mental health disorders so you learn to see them for the person they are rather than their condition
  • Don’t judge, label or discriminate when you meet people with mental health disorders. Treat all people with respect and dignity.
  • Avoid using language that puts the condition first and the person second. Say ‘a person with bipolar disorder’ rather than ‘that person is bipolar’.
  • Saying something when you hear people around you making stereotypical or inaccurate comments about mental health
  • Sharing your own experience of managing mental health conditions (if you have experienced it). This will help dispel myths and encourage others to do the same. Mental health is not something shameful that needs to be hidden.


Self-stigmatization is a component of the broader social phenomenon known as stigmatization. The process of stigmatization involves labelling differences as undesirable and can result in social exclusion, disempowerment, and discrimination. While any aspect of human experience can be stigmatized if deemed abnormal or undesirable, recent research in psychology has focused primarily on stigmatization of “mental health conditions.”

However, research also suggests that, instead of being diminished by the stigma, many people become angry because of the prejudice that they have experienced. This kind of reaction empowers people to change their roles in the mental health system, becoming more active participants in their treatment plan and often pushing for improvements in the quality of services.

Takeaways from This Overcoming Self-Stigma Guide

So, as a guide to overcoming self-stigma, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise and a fulfilling social life can go a long way towards increasing feelings of one’s self-worth. By following the guide, you regain your humanity.

Do so by implementing the following:

  • Exercising regularly will encourage you to no longer view yourself as weak; as a victim of your condition.
  • Getting enough sleep will initiate a reduction in anxiety and depression.
  • Eating healthy will provide your brain with the necessary nutrients to keep your 'feel good' neurotransmitters firing.
  • Engaging in social activities will help you work with your social anxiety disorder

As we come to realize that stigma plays an active role in mental health, so should we also be taking on the role to prevent stigmatization and discrimination. Our roles as members of society are not to make life even more unbearable for people struggling with mental health conditions, but rather to try and understand mental health and its effects as a whole.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find a mental health clinic or mental health specialist you feel comfortable with. At ZwavelStream clinic, you will be met by a team of warm, dedicated and experienced professionals. We strive to provide our patients with a mixed therapeutic model of psychiatric care so that you can discover a renewed sense of wellness that extends beyond mental health.

Zwavelstream Clinic is set in the Bronberg, with lush vegetation, manicured gardens, as well as spacious and tastefully furnished rooms. Our mental health clinic was inspired by the desire to provide a psychiatric unit in an environment that “de-institutionalizes and de-stigmatizes” mental health hospitals. We also provide holistic treatment specifically designed to meet your personal needs. Our treatment and support will help you on your journey to wellness. Our facility is the perfect tranquil setting, where you can relax and concentrate on healing. Contact us today to discuss your needs.


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