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Healthline Mental Health

What to know about mental health stigma in Latin America

Mental health stigma is the largest community barrier to improving global mental health, and in Latin American cultures, this stigma may be more prevalent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) claim that stigma surrounding mental ill-health is the biggest obstacle in the way of people seeking treatment. Stigma refers to a set of negative, and often unfair or inaccurate, beliefs that society associates with certain circumstances, qualities, or people.
This article will explore what mental health stigma is, why it is a problem in Latin American countries and communities, and how to combat it.

What is mental health stigma?

Mental health stigma refers to negative attitudes or beliefs that lead to the “devaluing, disgracing, and disfavoring by the general public of individuals with mental illnesses.”
There are three commonly recognized types of mental health stigma:
  • Social or public stigma: This refers to the negative discriminatory beliefs or attitudes about mental health conditions promoted in one’s cultural group or broader society.
  • Self-stigma: This occurs when a person internalizes negative societal attitudes about mental health conditions.
  • Institutional stigma: This refers to governmental or private institutional policies that unintentionally or intentionally discriminate against people with mental health conditions.
Mental health stigma remains a major negative influencing factorTrusted Source in how people both treat and perceive mental health conditions. Some research indicates that in many countries, around 80–90% of people with a mental health condition experience the negative impact of stigma.
Social, cultural, regional, religious, and family beliefs, as well as media portrayals, can influence stigma surrounding mental health conditions. These beliefs are usually due to a combination of ignorance and misinformation, negative attitudes or prejudice, and discrimination.

Why is it a problem in Latin American countries and communities?

Mental health stigma exists everywhere in the world, but it may be particularly strong in Latin American cultures and communities.
One 2016 review analyzing research on mental health stigma found that Latin American cultures tend to hold some similar prejudices toward people with mental health conditions as Western European cultures.
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