Stigma is defined as a social construct by which a distinguishing character, as deemed by society, is attached to others in order to devalue them. In relation to those with mental disorders, their illness is the distinguishing character that is used to devalue them. Throughout history, those with mental disorders have been stigmatized for unknown reasons, other than they are different from the norm. Even now, many are afraid to speak up about or seek help for their mental health issues because mental illness isn't deemed "real" by many, and access to care is limited.
As a society, we have made strides in understanding mental disorders and the stigmas that follow. However, we need to work to end the belief we have done "enough" or "things are better now". Yes, many celebrities and influential individuals have become more open about mental illness, which is slowly breaking down the wall that pushes those in need into silence, but there is still education to be done. For instance, as someone who work with children and adults with disabilities, it hurts me every time I read an article or see a news segment about an individual with mental disabilities being wrongly treated by our police force because police officers do not have the proper training to decipher those with mental disorders from an individual who may be a danger to the community.
As a result of the stigma experienced by those with mental illness, self-stigma, or the prejudice towards oneself, can occur. This leads those with mental illnesses to refuse help because they do not want to face discrimination from society. Over a third of inpatient psychiatric patients refuse medications, and those who refused medications have higher rates of threats and assaults, which only goes to show that public stigmas towards the mentally disorders have a strong correlation with the refusal of treatments by those in need. Because these individuals refuse treatment, their behavior because erratic, which is the leading cause to mistreatment by the police force who are not able to quickly determine the difference between someone with a mental disorder, or someone who is on drugs.
In the end, the best and only way to end the negative effects of stigma on those with mental illness is to increase education. Especially for individuals, like first and the police force, who may come into contact with these individuals in complex situations.