De-stigmatizing a mental illness: importance of individual and collective representativeness


(Joshua Earle, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Gabriela Moreira, a medical student is in her third year of medical school at the University Center of Pará de Belém, Pará. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Stigma is defined as a mark represented by a cut or burn, which symbolically refers to a dishonor or something negative for social coexistence (1). The same form of mental illness was seen and is still seen – stigmatized – therefore the citizen who had some disorder was soon segregated from the so-called “normal”, and consequently silence was established.

However, with the onset of the Yellow September campaign, the debate began not only on mental illness, but also on mental health, the importance of staying emotionally healthy so as not to lead to disorders such as major depressive disorder – which currently It occupies the place as one of the main causes of the individual’s incapacity to live their existence – and one of the main risk factors for suicide (2). Certainly, it is clear that there has been increased visibility to mental health, however, stigmatization remains an obstacle to better access to mental health services today.

Nowadays, media processes such as cinema and television have played an important role in individual and collective representativeness, which culminates in the formation of an awareness about the world, transforming it into a potential visibility factor for health and mental illness. By the way, the movie Joker (2019) is an example of representativeness of the view of a character with mental disorders on society and government, also showing social exclusion, since one of the phrases of the character Arthur Fleck was “the worst part of having a mental illness is that people expect you to behave as if you don’t”, which caused great repercussion in social networks, showing the importance of this representativeness to break this prejudice.

In addition, celebrity participation on the topic is essential to breaking the taboo, which is talking naturally about mental disorders, showing that just as any individual can acquire hypertension and diabetes, he can develop depression or an obsessive compulsive disorder. Thus, when media influences report about their mental illnesses, as happened with Eleen Degeneres or Jim Carrey, they inspire others to talk about, find health services, and can become a further step towards de-stigmatizing mental disorders.

In this sense, it is visible that the theme mental health has gained space in the media, both in the cinema and social networks, provoking discussion about it, bringing reflections of where this prejudice and stigma began, but currently has been attention of all due to the important representativeness that, even if well contemplated, should be instigated, reinforced, so that this theme ceases to be a taboo for society, thus resulting in greater ease of access to information for all these diseases and facilitating access mental health service in all countries.


  • MELO, Zélia Maria de. Estigmas: espaço para exclusão social. Disponível em: <file:///C:/Users/LG/Desktop/publicação/2457.PDF>. Acesso em: 4 dez. 2000.
  • TAVARES, LAT. A depressão como “mal-estar” contemporâneo: medicalização e (ex)-sistência do sujeito depressivo [online]. São Paulo: Editora UNESP; São Paulo: Cultura Acadêmica, 2010. 371 p. ISBN 978-85-7983-113-3. Available from SciELO Books <;.

About the author

Gabriela Moreira is in her third year of medical school at the University Center
of Pará de Belém, Pará. She is Local Director of Research and Publishing at
IMFSA Brazil (LPR-D). Binder of the Paraense Academic League of
Psychiatrist. Passionate about mental health and research.


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