Stigma Labelling Health Social Care

Discrimination, stigma and labelling are associated with adverse effect on health and social care context. Discrimination experienced by people with mental health not only affect their mental capacity but also have adverse impact on their physical health and wellbeing. This essay will explore the definition of discrimination, stigma and labelling in health and social care context. Moreover, it will highlight the extent of issues faced by people with mental health problems due to high level of social discrimination and stigma, with special reference to the black men with schizophrenia suffering from discrimination and social labelling. This essay will also pay special attention to the issues of inter-relationship between the health and social position and depicts the understanding of discrimination faced by people in society. In the conclusion, this essay will depict the main points that would be discussed in this study.

As stated by Major et al. (2017), discrimination is the unfair treatment of individuals based on their certain characteristics. In health and social care context, discrimination can be considered as the socially structured action that is highly unjustified and unfair, thereby pose the adverse effect on physical and mental health of people. According to Clement et al. (2015) labelling is process that creates the categories of deviance, in which people are classified restrictively and inaccurately. On the other hand, social stigma is the discrimination against or disapproval of an individual based on his or her perceivable social characteristics. As stated by Thornicroft et al. (2016), social stigma is associated with the gender, race, culture, health and mental capacity of people. For example, the majority of black men with schizophrenia in London face severe discrimination and social stigma due to their mental instability and body colour. The evidence-based report suggests that certain labels in society carry the stigmatised meaning, which has a potential impact on social perception regarding behaviour and activities of the particular group on individuals. Media highlights the social stigma and stereotyping in order to represent the fact that how society views certain levels and categories of people. for example, the word ‘Chav' is used by the British mass media in order to describe the anti-social youth in the UK dressed in sportswear. Based on this stereotyping, young lower-class persons in the UK who show loutish and brass behaviour and wear imitation designer clothes are considered as the anti-social people. In health and social care context, stigma and labelling act as the major cause of exclusion and discrimination. It affects the self-esteem of people with mental illness and disrupts their family relations by reducing their ability to socialise. For example, in the UK, there are prejudices and stereotyping regarding the behaviour and activities of black men suffering from schizophrenia. Society labels these people with prejudices which highlights their inability, or mental capacity and inappropriate behaviour. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), social stigma, discrimination and labelling hinder the design and implementation of the policies and activities important for protecting the rights and opportunities of victims(WHO, 2018). The evidence-based report suggests that moral panic has been created in society due to the high level of discrimination, stigma and labelling. Media plays important roles in representing how society treats and view a particular group based on its characteristics and activities. For example, the fights between two groups mods and rockers highlight the societal reaction about the behaviour and activities of groups. The group of people who are involved in the fifths are described by society as the ‘folk devils’.


In this aspect, Stuart (2016) mentioned that social structure, stigma and stereotyping affect the health and experiences of illness in society. Based on the social construct, mental illnesses are characterised by the presence of mental pathology, disturbances of bodily functions and disturbances of mental stability. Hence the mental illness is treated and viewed by society as the form of abnormality and incapability of people as the behaviour is not like what society expects to be normal. this social construct on the mental illness leads to persons being perceived as incapable of doing any work and abnormal. In this aspect Wu et al. (2017) mentioned that social stigma, labelling and prejudices regarding the mental illness changes people perception regarding the actual cause, associated risk factors and outcomes of the illness. From the WHO report 2010 “World Mental Health Day: Living with Schizophrenia”, Schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people across the world. However, still, this illness is potentially associated with the social prejudices and wrong perception of society people regarding mental illness. The social stigma and stereotyping pose severe discrimination on people suffering from Schizophrenia, by making the wrong perception regarding the activities and behaviour of these people. moreover, society views Schizophrenia as an untreatable, hopeless and dangerous illness that makes people incapable of doing any social activities. Based on Labelling Theory, in health and social care context, self-identity as well as behaviour of people suffering from mental and physical illness is determined and influenced by terms that are used by the society in order to describe them. This is associated with self-fulfilling prophecy and social stereotyping. for example, in the UK, the majority of the black men with Schizophrenia suffers from social stereotyping which make wrong prejudices about their capability, behaviour and activities. Most of the black student with mental illness experience discrimination and social stigma in terms of attaining school functions and inter-school activities. Labelling Theory can be used in order to describe the social perception of attachment to a disease or illness. In order to diagnose a person as being ill, sociologist uses different symbols and terms that wrongly judge the reasons and outcomes of the illness (Cruwys and Gunaseelan, 2016). Moreover, due to the social stigma and labelling, society people, deviate from the actual norms of health and welfare. In this aspect, another important theory on the social construction of health is the Sick Role Theory. This theory is associated with describing the particular rights as well as responsibilities of people those are ill. Since the persons who are diagnosed with the critical medical condition, are unable to fulfil the responsibilities as the person with good health, society makes wrong prejudices and reasonable amount of deviations from the behaviour that is viewed by the healthy person. As the ill person has a different pattern of behaviour as compared to the norm, society form stigma and stereotyping in terms of classifying these ill group of people as social inactive. For example, the black men with Schizophrenia gave to face severe violence, discrimination and racial stigma which hinders their proper recovery and treatment. Majority of the people with mental illness suffer from wrong prejudices of society and libelling about their behaviour, activities and personal abilities.

As mentioned by Phelan et al. (2015), the social process of illness represents different interpretations regarding what constitutes the disease or illness. Society interprets illness as the deviation from, normal health norms that are associated with mental and physical capability of individuals in fulfilling the social duties. There is a cultural interpretation of health and illness, which described the illness with reference to the particular culture that the individual follows. In one culture some people are considered as ill, whereas in other culture they are considered as normal. For example, in the case of health care context, people with Schizophrenia are considered as people who have poor mental capability, but it doesn’t represent the people as socially inactive or abnormal. In the context of social interpretation, people suffering from Schizophrenia have the behavioural deviation from normal activity and characteristic of people who have good health. As mentioned by Hamilton et al. (2016), medical professional is associated with correcting the social prejudices and wrong interpretation regarding the health and illness, in order to make positive viewpoint of society people regarding behaviour and activities of people suffering from mental and physical illness. The medical professional has the power to determine who are sick and ill by evaluating their current health status. Through making scientific judgements of health and wellbeing medical professional can change the socially constructed viewpoint about health and illness. In this aspect () argued that mental illness is socially constructed phenomena that can be controlled and maintained by psychotic professional. In this aspect, proper counselling, psychotherapies are effective measures that can make people able to have proper mental and physical abilities in order to perform their social duties.

In this aspect, Becker’s Theory on Sociology of Deviance can be used to discuss the potential impact of social stigma and discrimination on health and social care context. By applying this theory in health and social care context it can be stated that social groups make their own attempts and rules and enforce them into the social practices. As mentioned by Sampogna et al. (2017), people with mental and physical illness are unable to perform these roles and attempts due to their cognitive, intellectual and understanding ability. Therefore, people with mental illness who cannot meet the rules or break the rules are considered as the ‘outsiders’ by society. In case of black men with Schizophrenia, they are unable to perform this socially constructed rules and obligations., this is why they are considered as socially inactive and ‘outsiders’, who are not entitled to any social support or facilities.

In terms of describing the rules and rules enforcement in society, Cruwys and Gunaseelan (2016) mentioned that, doctors have considerable power over the non-medical matters. Through using their scientific judgements and logical interpretation of specific disease and illness, they can change the socially constructed wrong prejudices and stereotype. Most of the sociologist focuses on Anti-Racist Perspectives which can be implemented in health and social care context, to offer equal social facilities and support to people suffering from mental illness. For example, society can label the ethnic minority groups mentally ill, which represent severe discrimination and stigma regarding the behaviour and activities of these people. black men with Schizophrenia belonging to the minority group in the UK, are labelled as socially inactive and mentally ill.

From the above-mentioned discussion, it can be concluded that social stigma, stereotyping and discrimination have potential adverse impact on health and social care context. Stigma and labelling lead to form the socially constructed perception regarding behaviour and activities of persons suffering from mental illness. Health professionals have the power to represent the scientific and logical interpretation on the definition of mental illness and its outcomes. The social construct of health and illness, have several wrong interpretations which are based on the particular characters of people. Different theories have been formulated in order to discuss the social interpretation of mental and physical illness. All social groups have their own rules that they enforce into social practices. People who break the rules or unable fulfil the socially constructed attempts are described as the outsiders. Therefore, for combating with the adverse impact of socially constructed stigma, stereotyping on health and social care context, it is important that health and social care professionals; would work on correcting social perception to make the positive transformation of them.

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Reference list:

  • Clement, S., Schauman, O., Graham, T., Maggioni, F., Evans-Lacko, S., Bezborodovs, N., Morgan, C., Rüsch, N., Brown, J.S.L. and Thornicroft, G., 2015. What is the impact of mental health-related stigma on help-seeking? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies. Psychological medicine, 45(1), pp.11-27.
  • Cruwys, T. and Gunaseelan, S., 2016. “Depression is who I am”: Mental illness identity, stigma and wellbeing. Journal of Affective Disorders, 189, pp.36-42.
  • Hamilton, S., Pinfold, V., Cotney, J., Couperthwaite, L., Matthews, J., Barret, K., Warren, S., Corker, E., Rose, D., Thornicroft, G. and Henderson, C., 2016. Qualitative analysis of mental health service users’ reported experiences of discrimination. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 134, pp.14-22.
  • Major, B., Dovidio, J.F. and Link, B.G. eds., 2017. The oxford handbook of stigma, discrimination, and health. Oxford University Press.
  • Phelan, S.M., Burgess, D.J., Yeazel, M.W., Hellerstedt, W.L., Griffin, J.M. and van Ryn, M., 2015. Impact of weight bias and stigma on quality of care and outcomes for patients with obesity. Obesity Reviews, 16(4), pp.319-326.
  • Ross, A.M., Morgan, A.J., Jorm, A.F. and Reavley, N.J., 2019. A systematic review of the impact of media reports of severe mental illness on stigma and discrimination, and interventions that aim to mitigate any adverse impact. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 54(1), pp.11-31.
  • Sampogna, G., Bakolis, I., Evans-Lacko, S., Robinson, E., Thornicroft, G. and Henderson, C., 2017. The impact of social marketing campaigns on reducing mental health stigma: results from the 2009–2014 Time to Change programme. European Psychiatry, 40, pp.116-122.
  • Thornicroft, G., Mehta, N., Clement, S., Evans-Lacko, S., Doherty, M., Rose, D., Koschorke, M., Shidhaye, R., O'Reilly, C. and Henderson, C., 2016. Evidence for effective interventions to reduce mental-health-related stigma and discrimination. The Lancet, 387(10023), pp.1123-1132.
  • Wu, I.H., Bathje, G.J., Kalibatseva, Z., Sung, D., Leong, F.T. and Collins-Eaglin, J., 2017. Stigma, mental health, and counseling service use: A person-centered approach to mental health stigma profiles. Psychological services, 14(4), p.490.

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