Mental health stigma and discrimination: the experience within social work

David Gormley, Neil Quinn

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    The stigma experienced by mental health service users has been examined by many authors but is rarely found within the social work literature. Through interviews with mental health service users and social workers, this paper will explore the stigma experienced by service users within a social work context. The study considers the strategies employed by various individuals and groups seeking to challenge the effects of stigma, highlighting the need to include social work in this debate. The interviews with service users and social workers provide individuals' perspectives on some of the key concepts within the stigma discourse, on individuals' experience of psychiatric services, on the relationships between professionals and service users and the contribution of a recovery approach in addressing stigma. The paper concludes that local authorities need to play a much more prominent role in tackling mental health stigma and discrimination through policy developments, involvement of service users in planning and development of services, incorporating the experience of stigma within assessments and improving multi-disciplinary collaboration to tackle stigma and discrimination. Finally, the paper challenges social work academics to respond to the deficit of research in this area.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)259-272
    Number of pages14
    JournalPractice: Social Work in Action
    Issue number4
    Early online date17 Sep 2009
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • stigma
    • mental health
    • discrimination
    • social work

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