‘Social exclusion’ referred to those who were not protected by the welfare state and were considered social misfits. The ‘socially excluded’ encompasses the mentally and physically handicapped, the aged and invalid, drug users, delinquents and suicidal people. It essentially includes those who were marginalised by main stream society, prominent among them being the mentally ill. The negative consequences of social exclusion are compounded by a stigmatising attitude to the mentally ill.
A stigmatised person is one who is thought to be not quite human or normal. Stigma is therefore, ‘the negative perceptions and behaviours of so called normal people to all individuals who are different from themselves’. The individual is in a situation where he is disqualified from full social acceptance.
An article from the Psychology and Developing Societies explores the interface between stigma and social exclusion as it impacts the mentally ill.
Attitudes towards mental illness vary among individuals, families, ethnicities, cultures and countries. Cultural and religious teachings often influence beliefs about the origins and nature of mental illness, and shape attitudes towards the mentally ill. Stigmatising attitudes towards the mentally ill thus exclude them from equal opportunities and meaningful employment leading onto poverty.
Stigma undermines social cohesion. This can reinforce exclusion, making it even harder to escape from poverty. Poverty, in turn, accentuates the already existing stigma experienced by the mentally ill, leading to further discrimination and social exclusion.
As a result of several over-arching factors, individuals with mental illness are systematically excluded from full participation in civic and social life and are constrained to lead lives that are shaped by stigma, isolation and denial of rights.
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