Combat the Stigma

Combat the Stigma


Three out of four people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma. Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart. When a person is labelled by their illness they are seen as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination, so we all need to combat the stigma.

Stigma brings experiences and feelings of:

  • shame
  • blame
  • hopelessness
  • distress
  • misrepresentation in the media
  • reluctance to seek and/or accept necessary help

Families are also affected by stigma, leading to a lack of support. For mental health professionals, stigma means that they themselves are seen as abnormal, corrupt or evil, and psychiatric treatments are often viewed with suspicion and horror.

A 2006 study found that:

  • nearly 1 in 4 of people felt depression was a sign of personal weakness and would not employ a person with depression
  • around a third would not vote for a politician with depression
  • 42% thought people with depression were unpredictable
  • one in 5 said that if they had depression they would not tell anyone
  • nearly 2 in 3 people surveyed thought people with schizophrenia were unpredictable and a quarter felt that they were dangerous
  • Some groups are subjected to multiple types of stigma and discrimination at the same time, such as people with an intellectual disability or those from a cultural or ethnic minority.


We all have a role in creating a mentally healthy community that supports recovery and social inclusion and reduces discrimination. Simple ways to help include:

  • Mental Health - Combat the Stigmabe a voice for the voiceless
  • learn and share the facts about mental health and illness with others
  • get to know people with personal experiences of mental illness
  • speak up in protest when friends, family, colleagues or the media display false beliefs and negative stereotypes
  • offer the same support to people when they are physically or mentally unwell
  • don’t label or judge people with a mental illness, treat them with respect and dignity as you would anyone else
  • don’t discriminate when it comes to participation, housing, and employment
  • talk openly about your own experience of mental illness. The more hidden mental illness remains, the more people continue to believe that it is shameful and needs to be concealed.