Opinion Review
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2021. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Psychiatr. Mar 19, 2021; 11(3): 63-72
Published online Mar 19, 2021. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v11.i3.63
Exorcising memories of internalised stigma: The demons of lived experience
Joanna Ruth Fox
Joanna Ruth Fox, School of Education and Social Care, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge CB1 1PT, United Kingdom
Author contributions: The author prepared the ideas for the article herself and is the sole author.
Conflict-of-interest statement: There was no conflict of interest in the writing and publication of this article.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/Licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Corresponding author: Joanna Ruth Fox, PhD, Senior Lecturer, School of Education and Social Care, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1PT, United Kingdom. joanna.fox@aru.ac.uk
Received: December 20, 2020
Peer-review started: December 20, 2020
First decision: January 7, 2021
Revised: January 14, 2021
Accepted: February 26, 2021
Article in press: February 26, 2021
Published online: March 19, 2021

Public stigma and self-stigma impact negatively on the lives of people with mental health issues. Many people in society stereotype and discriminate against people with mental ill-health, and often this negative process of marginalisation is internalised by people with lived experiences. Thus, this negative internalisation leads to the development of self-stigma. In this article, I reflect on my own experiences of shame and self-stigma as a person with mental ill-health socially bullied by peers from my community and social groups. I present a personal narrative of both public and self-stigmatisation which I hope will enable me to exorcise memories of internalised stigma, which are encountered as my demons of lived experience. Using reflexivity, a process used widely in health and social care fields, I consider how social bullying shattered my fragile confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy in the early days of my recovery; the impact of associative stigma on family members is also explored. Following this, the potential to empower people who experience shame and stigma is explored alongside effective anti-stigma processes which challenge discrimination. I connect the concept of recovery with the notion of empowerment, both of which emphasise the importance of agency and self-efficacy for people with mental ill-health. Finally, I consider how the concepts of empowerment and recovery can challenge both the public stigma held by peers in the community and the self-stigma of those with lived experiences.

Keywords: Stigma, User-led narrative, Reflexivity, Empowerment, Recovery, Mental health

Core Tip: The article explores the experiences of stigma and discrimination experienced by a person with lived experience of mental ill-health. It explores how both public stigma and self-stigma can shatter fragile confidence and impact negatively on both self-efficacy and self-esteem. Connections with the importance of empowerment and recovery in mental health are considered, and how they can overcome the sense of shame and self-pity experienced by people with mental ill-health who encounter social bullying by peers in their community.