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What is Marginalization in Mental Health?

What is Marginalization in Mental Health?

In a general sense, marginalization is exactly what it sounds like. It’s pushing people or issues to the margins of society, where they’re less likely to be seen or can be more easily avoided. Most people are at least generally aware that some individuals are living in the shadows of society, but the real issue is all the stories that never get reported and all the struggling people we never hear about at all. And so, while it’s important to understand the concept of marginalization, often the real trick is identifying and changing the things that cause populations in Utah to be marginalized in the first place.

With this in mind, here is an overview of the harmful effects and misconceptions that people have about this phenomenon.


The Difference between Marginalization and Stigmatization

Stigmatization has more to do with demeaning, ridiculing, and general discrimination. In high school and in society, there are people who are bullied and persecuted, but there are also people who are easily and repeatedly overlooked and who feel invisible as a result. People in the former group are being stigmatized. People in the latter group are being marginalized. This is, perhaps, the easiest way to understand the difference between the two.

However, mental health professionals also frequently discuss “social exclusion” as a key element of stigmatization. In this sense, marginalization is one of many contributing factors to the overall stigmatization that a person with mental illness may experience. Without a doubt, the two forces have a direct link. A bully, for example, is likely to be emboldened and have less fear of facing consequences when the person who’s being bullied is perceived as marginalized.


Marginalization as an Effect AND a Cause of Mental Illness

There is no face of mental illness and friends, family, and other sources of support frequently rise to the occasion. But people with mental illness do tend to get marginalized to varying degrees. Either as a symptom of a mental illness or as a side effect of treatment, many individuals display odd behavior and temperament. And people often fail to appreciate the isolating and judgmental ways that we tend to respond to these behavioral differences, even when no danger or harm is present. While people with bad intentions may see someone with mental illness as a vulnerable target, there is also plenty of prejudice that occurs as the result of common misconceptions and natural insecurities.

Likewise, the individual who faces prior marginalization is also more likely to develop any number of mental disorders. People tend to underestimate these effects as well. Take poverty, for example. A lot of people focus on the fact that people who are mentally ill can’t maintain gainful employment. And while this is true in some cases, nuanced research conducted over many years has also revealed that poverty is itself a risk factor and contributing cause of many mental and physical illnesses.


Specific Disorders and Research

Zooming in, there are also stark examples that link certain mental disorders with specific cultural forces. Take rising rates of eating disorders and increasingly idealized depictions of women in the media. This link is more than just common-sense intuition. The research between eating disorders and modern-day media content is quite robust. The average person can now find reputable literature reviews of multiple research studies which conclude “that the media does contribute to the development of eating disorders.” More than just Photoshop and airbrushed images that create unrealistic depictions of the human body, there is also a general absence of people with body types that do not match societal ideals and expectations.


Stop Feeling Invisible

If you’re feeling invisible, no matter the situation or cause, you should talk to a mental health therapist. It sounds cheesy and cliché, but one of the essential things that a mental health therapist does is listen. In fact, these professionals spend years developing the skill known as empathetic listening. More than just having some to talk to, you’re likely to feel heard in a way you haven’t in years. But, of course, this is just the beginning. Mental health professionals can help you gain access to public resources and community programs. They can also help you make positive changes to your environment and self-perception that are likely to alleviate the worst feelings and effects of marginalization.



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