Susan Sontag has observed that every society seems to need one illness that attaches stigma and blame to its ‘victims’ – mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, appears to have taken this mantle over from AIDS. A review paper by Haghighat (pp. 207–215) proposes that stigmatisation is a fundamental human tendency – a vestige of our animal evolutionary heritage – and, consequently, anti-stigma campaigns must work on many different levels in order to be successful. The power of the mass media has greatly increased the impact of stigma. If every time we hear the word ‘schizophrenic’ on television there is news of another murder, a form of classical conditioning occurs. Cognitive, affective and cultural strategies are therefore needed to ‘desensitise’ the public's fear and anxiety. Crisp (pp. 197–199), in an accompanying editorial, favours legislative and political interventions and feels that people with mental illnesses, like those with physical disabilities, should be empowered to ‘fight their corner’ and test out the relevance of human rights and disability discrimination legislation for their own ends.
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