The Stigma around hearing voices, in particular Schizophrenia is severe. the SANE guide to stigma states
“Stigma causes harm in lots of ways… It blights the life of people with mental illness, cause stress and unhappiness in the lives of their friends and families too, and damages society as a whole.”
It discourages help seeking, makes recovery harder, and promotes discrimination.
A New Zealand in depth report called “FIGHTING SHADOWS” on the excellent Like Minds Like US site, outlines these effects in detail. Not only does the stigma manifest in the way others treat those diagnosed with an illness, but can have a devastating effect on the people who “accept the stigma”. That is Selfstigmatise. Beleive the stigma, and thus lose all hope. The research says this
Self-stigma is an issue that most people with experience of mental illness would recognise, seeing it either in themselves or in other people. It is generally believed that self-stigma arises from internalising the negative messages and behaviour that people with experience of mental illness receive from others. In other words, the concept of selfstigma seems fundamentally and inextricably linked to the concept of discrimination”
An example of the effect of self stigma are found further on.”
One writer, on being diagnosed with schizophrenia, immediately began thinking he would never again hold a job and started considering suicide (Mind 2002)…
…Research has repeatedly found that people with experience of mental illness who self-stigmatise are more isolated, alienated, and socially withdrawn than are people with experience of mental illness who are not self-stigmatising (Caltraux 2003;Ritsher and Phelan 2004; Bromley and Cunningham 2004; Stuart 2005). This social isolation usually involves withdrawal from, and problems with, friendships and family relationships, and includes avoiding employment (Caltraux 2003). Because selfstigmatising people with experience of mental illness may have relatively limited social networks, they are less likely than the general public to receive support when they need it (Bromley and Cunningham 2004).”
An interesting paragraph. It would ask the question then, are many of the symptoms of mental illness, actual symptoms, or reactions to the current public perception and stigma around the illnesses. This is even more reason why we should support the removal of the label Schizophrenia as it seems to have no positive connotations for an individual, when the crippling stigma is taken into account. The importance of positive reporting of hearing voices gains more relevance. To have better information available on the hearing of voices accessible for the public.
The research paper also mentions “circuit breakers” to counter stigma. These include better education on the nature of their condition, peer support groups, role models, and empowerment.
“Enhancing empowerment is mentioned in the literature as a means of combatting self-stigma(Watson and Corrigan 2001; Health and Development Networks 2004; Shih 2004; Bagley and King 2005).Following a review of the literature, Bagley and King(2005) conclude that many people with experience of mental illness might cope best with active problem solving, which involves people having control over their lives. The Stigma-AIDS eForum states that one of the best means of combatting self-stigma is by facilitating empowerment, especially at the point of diagnosis (Health and Development Networks 2004). Shih (2004) argues that empowerment helps people with experience of mental illness to develop feelings of mastery and self-efficacy, and thereby helps them to combat discrimination and avoid internalising stigma.”
This is just a small snippet of the lengthy and interesting research paper. I have placed it also in the links section for future access, or click on the “fighting Shadows “link above.