The way in which the public perceive people with mental health impairments is constantly being called into question. The relationship between mental health and social problems are prominent in day to day life, but can be experienced and viewed on varying levels-this is dependent on individuals.
Stigma and discrimination stem from personal ignorance and fear, whether the person is not well educated enough to understand illness or is ignorant to it; realistically the ignorance is more likely to cause social problems on an individual basis. The public needs a better awareness and understanding of what mental health is and how it affects people and the support network around them.
(Angermeyer and Matschinger 2005) Argue that members of the public have limited knowledge of mental illness and what they do know can sometimes be entirely incorrect. (Thornicroft 2006) States that the public believe having a mental illness reduces intelligence and the ability to make decisions and that some people still believe schizophrenia means having a split personality. In addition, (Thornicroft 2006) say it is common for the public to not grasp the difference between mental illness and learning disabilities.
This can lead to common misconceptions in society. (McLeod, S. A 2008). Social Roles and Social Norms – Simply Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/social-roles.htmlthere) There are many ways that people can influence our behavior, but perhaps one of the most important is that the presence of others seems to set up expectations. Social Norms are unwritten rules about how to behave. They provide us with an expected idea of how to behave in a particular social group or culture.
Because some people don’t fit into this social norm (Time to Change. 2008. Stigma Shout[online] available at: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/research-reports-publications [accessed 30th September 2013) state 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems have been affected by stigma and discrimination and more than two thirds have stopped doing things they wanted to do because of stigma.
Having aspirations and wanting to be in employment gives a certain level of self-esteem and people are generally in a much better position to build social relationships and contribute to society, this in turn helps; the community, the nation, and fellow man. Still people with severe mental health problems have a lower rate of employment than any other disabled group, but are proved more likely than any other group with disabilities to want to have a job and desire work. Up to 90% of people suffering from mental health issues say they would like to work this is compared to 52% of disabled people (Stanley K, Maxwell D 2004. Fit for purpose London: IPPR).
Campaigners such as ‘Time to Change’ are reaching out to the media particularly through social networking to make people more aware and be more open to recognising early signs of mental health problems, this will in turn help reduce the number of unreported mental health problems in the UK.
The WHO Mental Health Survey Consortium (2004) previously reported that up to 85% of people with serious mental disorders did not receive treatment in a one year period (World Health Organisation – Prevalence, severity, and unmet need for treatment of mental disorders in the World Health Organisation world mental health surveys 2004. 291:p. 2581-2590). Anti-stigma campaigns can help build a better relationship between mental health and social problems in a positive manner.
Direct social contact with people with mental health problems is without doubt the most effective way to change public attitudes so the greater the awareness the higher chance of people leaving personal prejudices behind. 77% of adults believe that the media does not do a good job in educating people about mental illness (Priory Group 2007. Crying shame. Leatherhead, Surrey: Priory Group).
There are many different perspectives and understandings of mental health and opinions vary significantly even when different people are presented with the same situation involving someone apparently experiencing mental distress (Dr Colin King, Model Values 2009 cited Colombo et al, 2003a and b).
Historically, the dominant model for explanations of mental disorders has been the ‘Medical Model’ which treats mental disorders in the same way as a physical cause and assumes the mental illness comes about primarily as a result of biochemical, genetic deviations, chemical imbalances or trauma which give rise to symptoms. These symptoms are classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which then leads to a diagnoses and drugs prescribed or in more serious cases electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) or psychosurgery are used; the latter being the very last resort if other treatments prove to fail.
With this model the treatment can be fast and therefore empowering people to live the life they have desired without having to stay in care homes or hospitals, though it is a double edged sword because as with all drugs there are side effects; it is known for ECT treatment to cause memory loss. Taking antipsychotic pills can cause weight gain and increase the chance of developing diabetes among other side effects. The Medical Model is alluring because it is succinct, tangible, and easily understandable and is in accordance with a scientific method which relies on objective and measurable observation.
There have been three types of studies to provide evidence to support this view which have been family, twin studies- and adoption studies.
The ‘Social Model’ looks at other sociological reasons to possible causes of mental health and is based on an understanding of the complexity of human health and well-being and supports the social networks of people who are vulnerable and frail. It takes the wider view that the ability to undertake such activities is limited by social barriers and shows the limitation of activity is not caused by impairments but a consequence of social barriers, this shifts the emphasis towards those aspects of the world that can be adapted and changed (The Social Model of Disability and The Disability Discrimination Act).
The management of the problem requires social action and is the collective responsibility of society at large to make the environmental modifications necessary for the full participation of people with disabilities in all areas of social life. The issue is both cultural and ideological and requires individual, community and a large scale social change and from this perspective, equal access for someone with an impairment or disability is a human rights issue of major concern. Social model thinking has important implications for the education system too, and particularly primary and secondary schools. Prejudiced attitudes toward disabled people and all minority groups are not innate.
They are learned through contact with the prejudice and ignorance of others.
To conclude mental health and social problems can be non-excitant if society focuses on the two dominant models ‘Medical & Social’. The two are the perfect example of a lasting relationship, intertwined with one another. Without the social model stigma and discrimination create barriers and without the medical model treatment would not be diagnosed and treated.
With the two models society can empower individuals to live the life they desire, strive for and deserve. People with mental health problems should be safe guarded and encouraged to participate in their community regardless of their age, race, or disability. If society tackles problems with mental health and social problems people face the world would be a better and more positive place to live.