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What IS STIGMA?

Many people with mental illness are challenged on two fronts. They struggle with the symptoms that result from living with a mental health condition and must also face stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness. 

Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because of your mental health challenges. A person may define someone by their illness rather than who they are as an individual. Labeling someone based on their mental health conditions ignores all of the other things that make up the person and perpetuates misconceptions about mental illness.

Negative attitudes and beliefs about mental health conditions are unfortunately common and ingrained in society. For people living with mental health challenges, the stigma that they experience can make their problems worse and make it more difficult to recover. Stigma has several negative effects.

Some of these include:

  • Reluctance to ask for help/get treatment

  • Reduced likelihood of staying in treatment

  • Inaccurate or unfounded thoughts and beliefs about a person, including that they are dangerous, incapable, or at fault for their condition

  • Discrimination

  • Feelings of shame, isolation, and hopelessness

  • Lack of understanding from family, friends, coworkers, and others

  • Bullying, violence, or harassment

  • Beliefs that you will never overcome your illness and/or be able to achieve what you want in life

  • Others may feel pity, fear, anger, and/or a desire for social distance from people living with mental illness

  • Negatively impact health care provider perceptions, impacting the care they provide

  • Lost opportunities for work, school, housing, and social interaction

  • Lower self-esteem

  • Increased symptoms

  • Difficulties with relationships

Stigma stems from inaccurate and antiquated beliefs about mental illness that have been repeatedly disproven. Mental illness is not a moral failing or a character flaw. Science shows that instead, it is a chronic and treatable disease from which people can recover and live long, healthy lives.