Tag Archives: stigma

Schizophrenic man terrifies kids at party

This is a guest post from the people responsible for promoting an anti mental health discrimination campaign called ‘Time to change’.

We don’t normally do adverts but I thought that this would be ok – it would be very interesting to hear if you have any comments or observations?

 Time to Change is run by leading mental health charities Mind and Rethink, and backed by £16 million from the Big Lottery Fund and £2 million from Comic Relief. 

The Time to Change charity was successfully launched in Jan this year with an advertising campaign created by MCBD, with media planning by Naked and media buying by the7Stars.  The campaign featured a TV ad: “The Bridge”, celebrity and real people testimonial posters and press ads (featuring Ruby Wax, Stephen Fry and others) and a Mental Illness Myth/Fact press and online campaign.

 

The latest phase of the campaign includes a more provocative piece which tackles the stigma surrounding mental illness head on.  It was decided to launch these films online for a number of reasons, firstly because most mainstream movies are launched through rich media online and we wanted to ape this type of media placement.  Secondly a vital part of this campaign is to encourage people to pass on these films to friends so online is the perfect environment to facilitate the viral spread of the campaign.

 

Two films break online on 10th August, both of which play on the negative stereotypes that people hold about people with schizophrenia. The first film “Schizo movie” fools the viewer into believing that it’s a promo for a thriller. It purposefully takes its cues from horror movie trailers, using lots of dark imagery.  However once the film starts to play we meet Stuart who is a regular guy, just like you or I, but who also happens to have schizophrenia.  This approach allows TTC to challenge the perceptions people have about people with mental health problems without finger-pointing.

 

The second film “Kid’s Party” will be seeded into video sites with the title “schizophrenic man terrifies kids at party” with a still of a typical kid’s party next to it.  Instead of seeing youngsters being frightened by a person with schizophrenia, viewers see a normal children’s party with the person “scaring” the children with a giant spider made out of balloons.  As this footage is revealed the person voices over the film and explains how thanks to support from his friends he’s able to live a full life despite having schizophrenia.

 

1 in 4 of us will have a mental health problem at some stage in life, yet research shows that attitudes to mental illness are just getting worse. And for many the stigma is harder to deal with than the illness itself.  Time to Change aims to improve public attitudes and get mental health problems out into the open.

 

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said: “Both films have been designed to attract members of the public who don’t realize they are causing stigma and discrimination.  Evidence shows that provocative films make a big difference to attitudes and both films will go a long way to reducing the stigma associated with mental health problems.”

 

She continued: “One in four of us will have a mental health problem at some stage of our lives. It can happen to anyone. Stigma and discrimination wrecks lives. Yet everyone can make a change in their attitudes now – you don’t need to be an expert to make a difference to friend, family member or colleague who needs your support.”

 

Michael Pring, managing director, MCBD said: “This is a very brave campaign for the mental health world to run with but we’re confident that getting people to nod along with prejudice and then confronting them with the reality will prove an effective approach”.

Service losers?

I have just been reading some work written by people looking at issues of stigma and discrimination in mental health, some of the material made me think quite a lot about this subject. Not only did the work state the obvious – things we already know such as people with a mental health issue treated differently to others, but it also examined the role of mental health nurses and I couldn’t help but recognise some of these statements were actually true.

Much is written about stigma and discrimination in mental health, particularly regarding service users, patients clients etc. Erving Goffman, in his book Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (1963), describes stigma as ‘ a special kind of relationship between attribute and stereotype. An attribute that is deeply discrediting, that reduces the bearer from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one. We believe that a person with stigma is not quite human. We tend to impute a wide range of imperfections on the basis of the original one. We may perceive his defensive response to his situation as a direct expression of his defect’. Goffman goes on to point out that stigma is generated in a social situation. It is a reaction by society that spoils a person’s identity by a set of imposed norms that are brought to bear on an encounter.

There are ‘them and us’ distinctions that underpin prejudice and discrimination and pervade mental heath services. People with mental health problems are devalued and, therefore those who work with them are also devalued by association: this is termed ‘courtesy stigma’ (Goffman 1963) or ‘stigma by association’ ( Neuberg et al 1994) The image of the psychiatric nurse compared to that of busy A&E ‘angel’ or life-giving midwife is seen very differently. Psychiatric nurses receive least recognition, affirmation, acknowledgement and validation from their family and friends (Cronin-Stubbs & Brophy 1985) and the psychiatric system as a whole is downgraded to a ‘Cinderella service’.

In an attempt to preserve our status, it might be tempting for mental health nurses to dissociate themselves from the devalued patients, to amplify differences in order to reduce the perceived threat from ‘out-group’ members (Heatherton et al 2003). When out with clients/patients/service users, it is often clearly demonstrated that you have not chosen to be with this person, that you are not a friend, neighbour, relative, but are with a patient AND are just doing your job!

Does this happen?

 

 

Laughing at the Lunatics : Hogarth’s the Rake in Bedlam

I have always found William Hogarth’s engravings fascinating – detailing both the trivia and the drama of ordinary lives in 18thCentury England. Many of them offer commentary on the problems of the day and perhaps also our own times?

In 1735 Hogarth completed a popular series of engravings entitled the “Rakes Progress”. These depicted a young mans debauched journey from a privileged start in life to his death in the infamous London Asylum called Bedlam. This name of this institution has passed into our speech as a term for a fearful and chaotic place. 

The Rake in Bedlam
Hogarth: The Rake in Bedlam

In the foreground of this picture we see the attendants removing the Rake’s chains (although I have read some saying that the chains are just being put on?). In death he is mourned only by the sweetheart he abandoned to pursue a life of drinking, gambling and womanising. As is typical of Hogarth’s work the rest of the picture is full of incident.

The cell on the left shows a “religious maniac”. His face contorts as he sees the shafts of sunlight coming through the bars which he sees as a spiritual visitation. In another cell a man who believes himself to be a king adopts a regal pose – harder to see is the pot he is pissing into. If you remember Dava Sobells book Longitude you will know about the struggle to figure out how to navigate around the world, the man with the telescope has lost his mind in the attempt. Other figures depict depression, a man who thinks he is the Pope and a mad tailor, a reminder of the tailor who measures him for a suit at the start of his progress. Two fashionably dressed women stand out from amongst the inmates.

These ladies have paid to tour Bedlam, this was a popular diversion of the day and a practice that was allowed until 1770 ( See thiswebsite for more details) . One of them is holding a fan to her face and is thought to be either trying to waft the stench from her face or possibly trying to hide the fact that she is laughing at the inmates. It is thought likely that Hogarth himself had toured this institution as it is said that architectural details (such as the bars which divide the “curables” from the “incurables”) are correct. Hogarth was closely involved in the foundation a few years later of the Foundling hospital – which cared for abandoned children. It seems reasonable to me to assume that he would have had a good reason to visit other institutions and didn’t go to Bedlam just to laugh? Whatever his reason to visit though we can be grateful that ideas have changed since Hogarth’s day – or have they?

Everyone is familiar with the experience of meeting a stranger at a party and going through the “what do you for a living” routine. Nowadays I can say I am a University Lecturer, but previously the revelation that I was a mental health nurse would often prompt a response such as “gosh you must be brave” or a request to talk about the sights I must have seen. If you are a mental health nurse -reflect on this yourself, do people have much idea of what mental health care is like or would their ideas more accurately fit Hogarths image?

Partly this may be due to media portrayals – try entering “schizophrenia” and “murder” into Google or recall the treatment Frank Bruno got from the Sun newspaper in the now infamous “Bonkers Bruno” headline. It is easy to question the press over some of this coverage, especially when the truth is that people with mental health problems are much more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violent crime (See MIND information for more details). It would be too easy (if not a little lazy?) to simply blame the press. Perhaps we all enjoy laughing at people who are perceived as different?

For example, I have laughed at some of the X factor auditions – there is an element of slapstick humour when things go horribly wrong but at the same time, being asked to join the laughter at films like this makes me uncomfortable. I have also come across this a few times as well – (whether this film is a fake or not) it is interesting to read the comments underneath.

 

What do you think? – I think we need to ask ourselves some questions: 

  What do we communicate to people about our work?

  •  What responsibility do we have in promoting understanding about mental health issues?
  •  Are we part of the solution?

…or sometimes part of the problem?