Stigma and General Health Care of People with Mental Illness

Stigma and General Health Care of People with Mental Illness

People with mental illness have poorer health than the rest of the population: higher prevalence, very high comorbidity, higher rates of infections, cardiac and respiratory diseases, increased mortality (especially cardiovascular), The explanation for this poorer health is, to a large extent, explained by inadequate attention to physical health by professionals, due to prejudices and false beliefs about the recovery of these people. The health professionals, as being part of society, also share many attitudes and false beliefs that exist related to people with mental illness. This video gives the point of view of patients, carers and professionals, and we also propose a guide for video forum within mental health centers, associations, etc.

Stigma and General Health Care of People with Mental Illness (24’)

Download Video: "Stigma and General Health Care of People with Mental Illness"

Short version in Spanish with English subtitles (7’)

Download Trailer: "Stigma and General Health Care of People with Mental Illness"

Training module

Guide for video forum

Invisible physical diseases
When the patient has a mental illness, the physical diseases are ignored in many cases in the health care services. The labelling of the mental illness has a very big impact, because of multiple causes. One of the most common cause is that physical problems are seen as a result of the invention of the patient, of the erroneous interpretation of somatic symptoms as a manifestation of the mental disorder. The health care focuses almost exclusively on the mental health problem, ignoring the physical health problems of the patient.

Discomfort in the consulting room
Both in in primary and secondary care, discomfort and insecurity may arise in the attention of persons with mental illness, especially when they don´t know the patient. Stereotypes of violence and weirdness that often accompany mental illness are present. When the visits become more usual, and the patient and the professional establish a continuing relationship, normally the initial fears dispel.

"I´m not going to explain it, because s/he won´t understand"

In mental health services at times information is not offered to these patients. Their ability to understand and manage the information is often underestimated, because of having a mental illness. By doing so, large individual differences between people, and the disability that implies the disease, are ignored. For example, the interactions with other medications and side effects of the drugs, are not detailed. By not providing adequate information, the chance that the person gets involved in his/her own care, is lost.

Promoting health lifestyles
Currently there is little awareness of the need to promote healthy lifestyles among people with mental illness. It has to be taken into account that this promotion is usually done with the general population, or specific audiences (childhood, adolescence, adults), and that people with mental illness are a much more vulnerable group. In addition, the health system provides little coordination and training for professionals on this topic. A reason for these deficiencies can be that the possibilities of these people to lead a healthy and meaningful social life, and promote their own health, are underestimated

The use of tobacco among people with mental illness is very high and smoking cessation programmes also still scarce, in spite of good results regarding tobacco reduction and cessation. Professionals sometimes show reticence about trying to reduce the dependence on tobacco, because of the effects that this may have on the stability of the patient. On top of this exists the belief in the power of nicotine to relieve emotional discomfort. Smoking can also be considered a "secondary" problem facing a severe mental illness

Emergency services: automatic referral to the psychiatric ward
There are situations, especially in the case of emergency services, where the diagnosis of mental illness of a patient causes referral to psychiatry and not to the service that require the physical problem that brought the person to the health service. Cases of under-use of diagnostic interventions, together with underestimating the physical problem of people with mental illness, can occur.

Last modified: Wednesday, 16 May 2018, 1:11 PM