Our 101 educational series

Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness

Social stigma is severe social disapproval of a person because of a particular trait that indicates their deviance from social norms. Unfortunately, stigma is common regarding individuals who have a mental health condition.

One of the adverse effects of stigma is that it can lead to discrimination. The discrimination may be overt, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or your treatment. Often, the stigma is subtle and even unintentional, such as avoidance of a person with a mental condition out of the mistaken fear of that person being unstable, violent or dangerous. Stigma can even be directed inwardly if the person with a mental illness feels that he is less worthy as a result of his condition.

Stigma is much more than a nuisance. There are harmful effects associated with stigma such as reluctance to seek help, lack of understanding of family and friends, inability to find employment or housing, social isolation and harassment.

Stigma is almost always based on a lack of understanding rather than the facts. Learning to accept your condition and recognize what you need to do to treat it, seeking support, and helping educate others can make a big difference.