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Introduction

Mental illness is also known as mental health disorders. Mental illness is a kind of health condition which includes changes in thinking, emotion and behaviour. It can be a combination of changes in terms of behaviour, emotion and thought process. Mental illness can be linked with any kind of suffering or complicated functioning in work, family and social activities. Mental illness includes eating disorders, post-traumatic disorder, anxiety disorders, bipolar, depression and addictive behaviours. Mental illness has an impact on various aspects among which gender and classes are also included. Mental illness causes a huge impact on people’s lives. The history of mental illness shows that it has been considered a stigma in society. Despite development in the field of medicine mental illness is still considered as an stigma and people are also judged. There is discrimination based on class and gender. With the prevalence of certain mental illnesses, there is discrimination in the diagnosis of the disorders. There is a disparity in mental illness which is based on the socio-economic status of the people.

Historical Overview

The word stigma originated from the Greek language which means a sign of shame and punishment. It is considered a form of disgrace (Economou et al., 2020). Mental illness was considered retribution from God in the middle ages. It was believed that the devil had possessed the sufferers and hence the sufferers were burnt or were sent to madhouse. In the Enlightenment period, the sufferers of mental illness were sent to institutions and were finally freed from the chain of punishment. During the Nazi regime, the inequity based on mental illness increased and the people suffering from mental illness were either sterilised or murdered (Wulf, 2016). The case study mentioned America in the late 80’s and 90’s where it was found that approximately, one-third of the homeless people have some mental illness problem. The survey which was conducted in 1992, showed that about 7.2% of the convicts were suffering from some serious mental illness. It was also observed that 100,000 people were imprisoned as they were mentally ill and were considered unsafe for society.

Status of Mental illness Nowadays

It has been observed that people with mental illness are more violent and aggressive and hence are dangerous to society. Mental illness also comes with inappropriate stereotypes like people having anxiety and depression are considered to be introverts. People suffering from mental illnesses like schizophrenia are considered to have split personalities. The stigma of mental illness can be decreased by making people aware of the issue. Moreover, mental illness becomes a stigma when people from society have misconceptions or beliefs about the illness (Healthdirect, 2021). Mass media plays an important role in any kind of stigma prevailing in society. The media have a negative impact towards mental illness. The media describes the mentally ill as unpredictable and violent. The viewers of the media have negative perceptions about the people who are suffering from mental illness. The news reporter shows some of the dramatic videos on television where some mentally ill person has committed murder. The media also discriminates based on gender. For example, men with mental illness are called psychoses whereas women are considered to have some neurological disorders (Srivastava et al., 2019).

Mental Illness and Class

Due to financial limitations, people from lower socioeconomic origins may encounter difficulties getting access to mental health treatments like counselling, medication, or support networks. Many people may find the cost of receiving proper care for their mental health to be exorbitant. The stigma surrounding mental illness might limit work possibilities and career advancement. People who have mental health issues may experience prejudice at work, which can lead to underemployment, job instability, or unemployment. Poverty itself has been linked to problems with mental health. Living in poverty frequently entails experiencing ongoing stress, having limited access to healthcare and education, and having a higher risk of developing mental health issues (Barnett et al., 2023).

Mental illness and gender

Stereotypes about gender can keep mental illness stigmatised. Men may be deterred from getting assistance because they perceive it as a show of weakness because of traditional gender norms, while women may have their mental health issues dismissed or minimised.

Other facets of identity, including race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, overlap with gender. People from marginalised groups may experience a variety of types of discrimination and stigma, which makes it harder for them to get the mental health care they need.

Men and women experience mental health disorders differently, which can result in biases in diagnosis and treatment. This may lead to a false positive or underdiagnosis, depriving the patient of the necessary care. When it comes to the stigma around mental health, women, especially those from lower socioeconomic origins, may bear a double burden. Both gender-based discrimination and socioeconomic inequality may provide difficulties for them (Van Droogenbroecket al., 2018).

For men, the stigma associated with mental illness may be worse. If they admit to having mental health issues, they might worry that people would think they are weak, defenceless, or unable. This aversion to being judged by others can result in self-stigmatization, secrecy, and a refusal to seek assistance. Specific stigmas relating to mental illness may be experienced by women, such as being called "hysterical" or having their emotions weakened. This may lead them to believe that their worries about their mental health are overstated or not taken seriously. Men and women may experience different levels of the prevalence and outward signs of mental diseases as a result of biological, psychological, and social variables. Women are more frequently diagnosed with depression (Saferet al., 2016). The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that women have a lifetime depression risk that is twice as great as that of men. Women are diagnosed with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa more frequently. The tendency for some mental health illnesses to be underdiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or treated in a different way depending on a person's gender is known as gender bias in diagnosis and treatment. Men's mental health issues, particularly those connected to emotional vulnerabilities, may not be properly or sufficiently diagnosed. Men may be deterred from getting help for mental health issues by gender stereotypes and societal expectations

Conclusion

Mental illness stigma affects individuals, societies, and many facets of human life, including class and gender dynamics. Mental health patients are marginalised and discriminated against due to negative attitudes and prejudices. Stigmatisation exacerbates class and gender inequities, generating a complicated web of obstacles to advancement and well-being. Stigmatising mental illness increases class inequities. Low-income people have limited access to mental health care, prolonging the cycle of untreated mental illness. Since the affluent can better manage their mental health issues, this lack of access widens the gap between the privileged and the marginalised. Thus, mental health issues reinforce class divisions. Gender also stigmatises mental illness. Gender conventions might prevent men and women from getting help. Men, in particular, are pressured to be tough and invulnerable, making it hard to talk about mental health. Women's mental health may be dismissed or blamed on hormones. Gender biases reinforce preconceptions and hinder mental health advocacy and support.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2022). What is Mental Illness?. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness#:~:text=Mental%20illnesses%20are%20health%20conditions,social%2C%20work%20or%20family%20activities.

Barnett, P., Oshinowo, I., Cooper, C., Taylor, C., Smith, S., & Pilling, S. (2023). The association between social class and the impact of treatment for mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology 58 (4), 581-603. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-022-02378-9

Economou, M., Bechraki, A., & Charitsi, M. (2020). The stigma of mental illness: Α historical overview and conceptual approaches. Psychiatrike= Psychiatriki 31 (1), 36-46. https://doi.org/10.22365/jpsych.2020.311.36

Healthdirect. (2021). Mental illness stigma. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-illness-stigma#:~:text=mental%20illness%20worse.-,What%20are%20examples%20of%20mental%20illness%20stigma%3F,Stigma%20often%20involves%20inaccurate%20stereotypes.

Safer, J. D., Coleman, E., Feldman, J., Garofalo, R., Hembree, W., Radix, A., & Sevelius, J. (2016). Barriers to healthcare for transgender individuals. Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity 23 (2), 168–171. https://doi.org/10.1097/MED.0000000000000227

Srivastava, K., Chaudhury, S., Prakash, J., & Dhamija, S. (2019). Social media and mental health challenges. Industrial Psychiatry Journal 28 (2), 155. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7660000/

Van Droogenbroeck, F., Spruyt, B., & Keppens, G. (2018). Gender differences in mental health problems among adolescents and the role of social support: results from the Belgian health interview surveys 2008 and 2013. BMC psychiatry 18 (1), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1591-4

WHO. (n.d.). Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/254610/WHO-MSD-MER-2017.2-eng.pdf

Wulf, R. (2016). The stigma of mental disorders [J]. Embo Reports 17 (9), 1250-1253. 10.15252/embr.201643041

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