What Is Stigma

The dictionary defines stigma as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

When a person experiences a mental illness it can be difficult for others to understand what the individual may be going through or how they can help.

When assumptions are made about how mental health challenges affect a person’s behavior, it is more likely they will be labeled as strange, different and even dangerous. This is what we define as stigma.

In addition, when treating people differently from how we treat others because of their mental illness, is what leads to discrimination. This is true whether done consciously or subconsciously.

Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health condition are common.

Stigma can have harmful effects that can include: stigma

  • Reluctance to seek out treatment or support
  • Health insurance that will not adequately cover treatment for mental illness
  • Misconceptions that mental illness can not be improved
  • Misunderstanding or lack of understanding from peer groups
  • Harassment, ridicule or physical violence
  • Fewer opportunities for employment
  • Difficulty finding housing

Much of what people think they know about mental illness actually stems from stereotypes presented in various media. Some of the best methods to address the stigma surrounding mental illness is to:

  • Be willing to talk about mental health
  • Be open to learning more about mental illness
  • Be willing to listen to a person’s experience
  • Recognize that mental illness is only a small part of the entire person
  • Understand that mental illness is a real and treatable health condition