Date Published: 6 January 2006

Get well soon? Cards reveal mental health stigma

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

Researchers from the University of Sheffield have discovered a trend in Sheffield hospital wards which highlights the stigma attached to mental illness. The study reveals that patients on psychiatric wards receive significantly fewer greetings cards than other patients.

The report, written by Professor Sean Spence and Dr Sudheer Lankappa, from the University of Sheffield´s Department of Academic Clinical Psychiatry, surveyed cards on the wards of Sheffield´s Northern General and Royal Hallamshire Hospitals as well as all the wards in the local psychiatric trust. They found that in total there were less cards on psychiatric wards, and also that each patient on those wards tended to receive fewer cards than other patients.

The authors argued that the notable absence of greetings cards wishing patients well could be due to a number of reasons including the isolation of psychiatric patients and `self-stigmatisation´ by patients who are ashamed by their illness and may fear loss of employment. They also suggested that friends and family may regard it as unlikely that psychiatric patients will make a recovery, or that in the case of mental illness, such proactive messages as `get well soon´ may feel contentious and provocative.

Professor Spence said:

" Our findings clearly expose the stigma attached to mental illness and psychiatric disorders. Every card denotes a sequence of actions: card selection, writing the message, delivering the card. The notion that such actions occur less often with psychiatric patients provides an insight into the way our patients are treated by others.

_ Despite a strong emphasis on integration and the reduction of stigma, following their admission to hospital, psychiatric patients are indeed treated differently to others, and this treatment implicates those who are closest to them."

Source: Sheffield University, England (UK).

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