Too similar, too different? The paradoxical dualism of psychiatric stigma

The Psychiatric Bulletin 38 (4):148-151 (2014)
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Abstract

Challenges to psychiatric stigma fall between a rock and a hard place. Decreasing one prejudice may inadvertently increase another. Emphasising similarities between mental illness and ‘ordinary’ experience to escape the fear-related prejudices associated with the imagined ‘otherness’ of persons with mental illness risks conclusions that mental illness indicates moral weakness and the loss of any benefits of a medical model. An emphasis on illness and difference from normal experience risks a response of fear of the alien. Thus, a ‘likeness-based’ and ‘unlikeness-based’ conception of psychiatric stigma can lead to prejudices stemming from paradoxically opposing assumptions about mental illness. This may create a troubling impasse for anti-stigma campaigns.

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Tania Gergel
King's College London

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