FEAR and hostility towards people with mental illnesses reduces them to outcasts and prevents them from leading normal lives.
This is the view ofCharlene Sunkel of the Central Gauteng Mental Health Society.
Sunkel says hostility towards those with mental disorders "aggravates their inability to cope" with their condition and pressures of everyday life.
"Persons with mental illnesses are most disabled by stigma. Stigma implies a mark of shame and deeply compromises their social standing.
"People with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar mood disorder are not only victims of psychiatric disability, but also of stigma, neglect, patronising attitudes and discrimination," she says.
"They are thought to be lazy, unpredictable, unsafe to be around, violent, possessed by demons and unable to work."
Solly Mokgata of the SA Federation for Mental Health says misconceptions about mental disorders affect the sufferers' chances of getting treatment.
He says institutionalisation makes it difficult for patients to fit into society, making them vulnerable to relapses.