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Public attitudes and the challenge of stigma 

Public attitudes and the challenge of stigma
Public attitudes and the challenge of stigma

Graham Thornicroft

, Elaine Brohan

, and Aliya Kassam

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date: 18 May 2022

If we deliberately shift focus from stigma to discrimination, there are a number of distinct advantages. First attention moves from attitudes to actual behaviour, not if an employer would hire a person with mental illness, but if he or she does. Second, interventions can be tried and tested to see if they change behaviour towards people with mental illness, without necessarily changing knowledge or feelings. The key candidates as active ingredients to reduce stigma are: (i) at the local level, direct social contact with people with mental illness; and (ii) social marketing techniques at the national level. Third, people who have a diagnosis of mental illness can expect to benefit from all the relevant anti-discrimination policies and laws in their country or jurisdiction, on a basis of parity with people with physical disabilities. Fourth, a discrimination perspective requires us to focus not upon the ‘stigmatized’ but upon the ‘stigmatizer’. In sum, this means sharpening our sights upon human rights, upon injustice, and upon discrimination as actually experienced by people with mental illness.

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