Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
  • Matthew Daniel
  • May 18, 2023

Understanding the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

As mental health issues become more prevalent, society is improving its ability to support individuals in need. However, the stigma surrounding mental illness and seeking assistance persists.

Stigma refers to the prejudice, discrimination, and social isolation experienced by those living with mental illness conditions. It can affect different people in different ways.

Tackling stigma is a critical challenge to society as a whole, requiring individuals, families, and healthcare professionals to have the courage and confidence necessary to challenge stereotypical beliefs that may exist. 

This is the only way to decrease the stigmatization of individuals and encourage them to receive needed treatments. To learn more about the stigma surrounding mental health, continue reading. 

What Is A Stigma?

Stigma refers to social condemnation or disapproval for mental, physical, or social characteristics which distinguish someone or a group from society at large.

There are various kinds of stigmas, ranging from those related to mental illness, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, race/ethnicity, disability, and poverty. While all can have negative repercussions for our well-being and health, some can be more detrimental.

People living with stigmas often receive special treatment and feel ashamed, worthless, or less valued than other individuals. It can be an ongoing source of worry and can shape how we perceive ourselves and others and prevent us from getting help when needed.

About Mental Health Stigma

Mental health stigma refers to any unfair treatment or discrimination which makes people with mental illness feel ashamed, isolated, and discriminated against – it may prevent individuals from seeking out help for mental health conditions.

Stigma often stems from misinformation and pre-existing prejudices. However, this often manifests itself through media outlets or social media reinforcing stereotypes about mental illnesses. For instance, portrayals that characterize those living with anxiety as cowardly may reinforce negative associations, while depression patients might be told to “buck up.”

Individuals living with mental illnesses are disproportionately more likely to encounter stigma and discrimination than those without any such conditions, including being denied housing, job opportunities, insurance coverage, and medical treatment for serious or chronic ailments.

Types of Mental Health Stigma

Stigma can take many forms, from public stigma to self-stigma and institutional stigmatization. It often arises as a result of an inadequate understanding of mental illness, inaccurate media portrayals, and negative attitudes toward those living with mental health conditions.

Here are some common types of mental health stigma. 

Public Stigma

The concept of public stigma refers to the unfavorable or discriminatory attitudes that people in society hold toward mental illness.


Self-stigma is one form of mental health stigma experienced by those living with mental illnesses. It also refers to negative feelings and internalized shame a mental illness patient may hold regarding their own condition.

Institutional Stigma

Institutional stigma occurs when policies and procedures discriminate against those living with mental illness disproportionately, such as in a company, school, or government setting.

Effects of Mental Health Stigma

The Mental Health Foundation reports that almost 90% of individuals with mental illness experience adverse effects in their lives as a result of stigma and discrimination. Moreover, the effects of mental health stigmas include:

  • Internalization of negative beliefs
  • Social isolation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Unemployment
  • Shame
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of criminal justice
  • Avoiding treatment
  • Worsening symptoms
  • Discrimination at work

How to Overcome Mental Health Stigma?

No matter if you are an individual or professional working within mental health care or someone living with mental illness. Overcoming stigma is critical to successful recovery. Here are some effective ways to overcome mental health stigma. 

Educate Yourself

Education about mental illness and sharing personal stories about it with those closest to you are key components in breaking down the stigma associated with mental illness. Moreover, knowledge increases awareness, making stigmatism harder to exist.

Talk About It

One effective way to fight mental health stigma is through open and honest discussion about personal experiences. Moreover, the more comfortable people feel sharing their own, the easier it will be for others to relate to and comprehend their struggle.

Reach Out

Reaching out for help is another effective way to overcome stigma. Assuring yourself and others of the need for treatment can help reduce mental health stigma. Though you may feel reluctant, delaying seeking help only compound symptoms further and decrease quality of life.

Be A Role Model

Help others who are suffering from mental health problems by acting as an example and speaking openly about your struggles and what you have learned from them. However, some may even have personal experience dealing with mental health challenges themselves and can offer invaluable advice.

Be Conscious of Language

Language matters when it comes to people’s perception of mental illness. Utilizing scientifically accurate, non-stigmatizing language can help lower stigmatizing attitudes toward such illnesses while encouraging individuals to seek help for them.


The stigma surrounding mental illness can have devastating repercussions for one’s life and well-being. From deterring people with mental illnesses from seeking treatment to creating feelings of guilt and shame in those living with these illnesses. However, there are multiple strategies available to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, including changing how it is depicted in media coverage and engaging with those living with these illnesses directly. Such efforts have proven their worth at both individual and population levels.



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