Iatrogenic stigma of mental illness

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7352.1470 (Published 22 June 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1470

Begins with behaviour and attitudes of medical professionals, especially psychiatrists

  1. Norman Sartorius (Norman.Sartorius@hcuge.ch), professor
  1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Geneva, CH-1205 Geneva, Switzerland

    The stigma attached to mental illness, and to the people who have it, is a major obstacle to better care and to the improvement of the quality of their lives.1 The World Psychiatric Association has recently initiated a global programme against stigma and discrimination because of schizophrenia.2 Twenty countries are participating in the programme, and others have expressed their interest in joining.3 The programme of the World Psychiatric Association is different from others in three ways. Firstly, it begins by an examination of experiences that patients and their families have had since the illness started. The analysis of accounts of their experiences in relation to society serves to select targets for interventions that will aim to reduce stigma and its consequences. Secondly, it involves different social sectors—for example, health ministries, social welfare services, labour ministries, non-governmental organisations, and the media. Thirdly, the programme is not a campaign but a long term engagement. Because of the strategy adopted for the programme, its focus differs from one place to another. For example, in Canada, one of the first targets of the programme was a change in procedures used in emergency departments that …

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