Stigma

Stigma is:

  • Always untrue
  • Always negative
  • Can be felt toward yourself

Stigma around mental illness includes having fixed ideas and judgments about mental illness and/or fearing and avoiding what is misunderstood. Stigma can appear as attitudes (thoughts and prejudices) and/or behaviors (bullying, avoidance, violence, etc.). There are significant consequences of feeling stigmatized, which can include limiting a person’s ability to attain and keep a job or safe place to live, reducing a person’s desire to seek treatment and support, fears of not being accepted by family, friends or the larger community, and avoiding relationships or social activities. The prejudice and discrimination felt by those with mental health issues might lead to believing these negative stereotypes, resulting in feelings of shame and guilt, as well as creating a barrier for individuals to seek the help they need. It is essential to be compassionate and thoughtful when talking about mental illness, using accurate and sensitive words.

Stigma can be understood in terms of three components: stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.

9/10 people with a mental health issue experience stigma and discrimination

Time to Change

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The stigma associated with mental illness prevents two-thirds of those affected from seeking help

Mental Health Commission of Canada

Symptoms:

Low self esteem, feelings of shame or guilt, difficulty making friends and isolation, exclusion from everyday activities and consistent work, reluctance to seek help, and slower or more difficult recovery.

Types of Stigma:

Cultural Stigma: the prejudice against mental illness that is part of a cultural way of life (e.g. “People in x community don’t talk to people with mental illness”).

Public-Stigma: the reaction that the general population has to people with mental illness.

Self-Stigma: the prejudice which people with mental illness turn against themselves.

Many people living with mental illness say the stigma they face is worse than the illness itself

Mental Health Commission of Canada

Additional Resources

Stamp Out Stigma Initiative to transform the dialogue on mental health and addiction. Encourage recognizing, reeducating and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders. Offers helpful videos and resources links to “help stamp out stigma” and show support by pledging to make a personal commitment to the cause. Go to site
Time to Change Led by UK charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change is a youth focused anti-stigma campaign informing and supporting individuals struggling with a number of mental health issues. Their blog collection is impressive, posted regularly, and offers a supportive environment for those living with depression and OCD. Go to site
Half of Us Created by the Jed Foundation and MTV-U, this college-aged specific website was created because half of all college students say they have been so depressed they couldn't function at some point during the last school year. The site offers facts around depression, tips for taking action, helping a friend, and finding resources for those experiencing depression, anxiety, and body image issues. It includes text and call lines for immediate assistance and a number of videos from college-aged students as well as celebrities who share their experiences and tips for coping. Go to site

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