The Journey to Self-Stigma and its Impact on ‘Recovery’ in People Experiencing Mental Distress: Fighting Back with Stigma Resistance


  • Ben Williams Nottingham Trent University


Mental Health;, Recovery;, Stigma;, Empowerment;, Social inclusion;, Identity


Research into the recovery model of mental health is providing more evidence of how people who are experiencing mental distress can live a life that they can define as fulfilling. It offers alternatives to the dominant biomedical approach. Through PCS analysis it was argued that self-stigma filters down through structural means such as the Mental Health Act 1983 and psychiatric institutions. The media made up the cultural domain, with sensational headlines and poor representation of people who experience mental distress. This was then internalised by the personal experiencing mental distress.

Stigma resistance was then explored as an antidote to self-stigma and the processes preceding it. Evidence suggested macro changes to the way society views mental distress was necessary to facilitating recovery. Anti-stigma campaigning can raise awareness and give a voice to those who experience mental distress. A readdressing of the biopsychosocial model gave more weight to the psychological and social domains as evidenced in a case study. The lack of progress psychiatric medicine has made over the last fifty years was evident.

There was a plethora of evidence for micro changes to society. A conceptual framework was utilised to navigate through the evidence; empowerment, personal and social identities, and connectedness. The evidence for each domain provided further argument for the importance of the role social work can play in these recovery processes.

Critics of the recovery model suggest the term ‘recovery’ has been hijacked by policymakers. The conceptual framework was criticised for becoming too rigid. However, the counterargument that social work can remedy this by applying both art and science paradigms, maintaining creativity to supplement the rigour of evidence.

With social work values and ethics aligning with the idea of the recovery model, the argument was made that social workers are in the best position to support people in facilitating recovery.