Grade: Middle
Subject: other

#3382. The Stigma Within

other, level: Middle
Posted Wed Feb 16 19:13:45 PST 2005 by James V. Bruno (
Lessons on Wheels, Philadelphia
Materials Required: Masks or paper grocery bags and scissors
Concepts Taught: To show how some families stigmatize the family member who has a mental illness


1.One or two days before the lesson, ask for volunteers to participate. Two male and two female would be ideal for this role-playing activity. Participants play the parts of two parents (heterosexual or otherwise)and two siblings (sibs could be two girls or boys, though mixed is pref.) If more than four sign up, names will be drawn from a hat. Nature of role-playing is not divulged until just before the lesson begins. At this time each volunteer is assigned a role; the one who is to play the mentally ill family member is given a "cue card" to study briefly.(In order to gain knowledge of some traits of mental illness.)

2. On day of lesson, the "family" are sitting on chairs, facing the audience, with their masks on, signifying their shame and embarrassment at having a mentally ill family member They are silent. The member who has a mental illness is sitting on the other side of room from the "family".

3. Before role-playing begins,teacher gives a brief preface about stigma within families, how prevalent this is, and how stigma is accompanied by shame, blame and guilt, etc. Asking the class for definitions of "stigma","shame" and "blame" would be appropriate here, to be sure that all are on the same page.

4. "Family" begins to interact.Cues from the teacher steer this "play" in the right direction, vis a vis "I feel really embarrassed when..." or "I feel just awful for making you this way...") etc. As the family react with each other the class, at appropriate times, can interject their questions and comments. (Time for each question or comment shoud be limited, within reason.)

5. At a predetermined point, approximately 1/2 hour into the lesson, teacher calls the role-playing to halt. Thereafter, there is an open discussion of the lesson topic which will hopefully reflect an undestanding of the stigma in families with mental illness, and what might be done to eliminate it.