A crowd of people with a green person standing out.

Understand Stigma

Stigma is a major barrier to people getting the help they need. Take time to learn what it is and how to overcome it.

Impact of Stigma

Stigma can be described with three words - stereotypes (ideas), that lead to prejudice (beliefs), that leads to discrimination (action).

Stigmatizing actions, ideas, and beliefs

Women shouting at individuals.

Stereotypes – Ideas

People with mental health challenges are incapable, fragile, dangerous, and cannot recover.

Lonely sad schoolgirl crying while all her classmates are ignoring her.

Prejudice – Beliefs

They are less than.

Elderly woman looking out of a window between shades.

Discrimination – Social

I don’t want them to live next door, be a co-worker, or marry into my family.

Confident businessman expressing his viewpoint.

Discrimination – Structural

Institutional, organizational, governmental limits to: availability, accessibility, acceptability.

How common is mental illness and addiction?

It’s possible that you don’t experience mental health challenges, but many people are.

Crowd of anonymous people walking on the city street.
More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
Man sharing mental health issues with a group.
1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
Happy young people hugging each other in a group.
1 in 3 young adults (aged 18-25) experienced a mental illness in 2020.
Crowd of anonymous people walking outside.
1 in 20 Americans live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

The ongoing impact of stigma

These categories come from research with people who have a lived experience of mental illness.
Male and female doctors in a hospital with crossed arms.

Worse healthcare

Skeptical unconvinced HR managers interviewing an applicant feeling distrustful and doubtful.

Lost employment

School classroom is empty.

Diminished education opportunities

An empty church.

Alienated from faith community

What you can do today?

Here are ways you can help reduce stigma related to mental health challenges:
Maintain recovery perspective on a daily basis – proactively seek out stories.
Mother with arms around son.
Reinforce and support resilience and recovery in others.
Consider the story you can tell about recovery.
A group sitting at desks in a circle in a classroom discussing.
Bring the conversation to your community.
Group of business people sitting in a conference room listening to a lecture.
Check out resources to learn more about mental health conditions.
Two men on a beach looking out with arms around each other.
See a person for who they are, not what drugs they use.
Man comforting an upset woman, with arms around her.
Say something when you see someone being mistreated because of their drug use.
Group of people sitting in a row and applauding
Use positive language and avoid hurtful labels.
Young female talking to listening male at a desk.
Listen while withholding judgment.
Man sharing a story in a group.

Reversing self-stigma

Research shows that the best way to reverse self and public stigma is through storytelling. When people with mental health challenges share their recovery experiences in a targeted, local, credible and continuous way, it helps others to connect with them and see that they are human beings. Sharing stories is the primary, evidence-based practice to reduce stigma.

Reversing public stigma

WISE and Rogers Behavioral Health promote the power of strategic contact with people in recovery to end stigma in schools, healthcare, congregations, workplaces and wherever humans interact.
Group of people gathered around a computer at a desk discussing.
Group of business people sitting in a conference room listening to a lecture.

Stigma-reduction and evidence-based research

Research on addressing discrimination and stigma has shown that individuals’ attitudes improve when they have direct contact with persons with mental illnesses, when they can get to know people beyond labels and myths.