What is Mental Health Stigma?

By Amanda Case, LCSW, SAC

An estimated 58 million Americans experience a mental disorder in every year, yet many people avoid talking about this or getting treatment because of the stigma that is associated with mental illnesses.  Many of us who either have mental illness or are affected by a loved one with mental health issues, may feel ashamed or uncertain about sharing this with others.  By sharing our stories, our strengths, our challenges, and ability to cope, we can start to change the stigma around having a mental illness.

Stigma refers to a cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate the general public to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people who have a mental illness. Self-stigma occurs when a person applies these negative beliefs to themselves.

  • Stigma results in fear, mistrust, and violence against people living with mental illnesses.
  • Stigma prevents people from receiving needed mental health services.
  • Stigma is a barrier and discourages individuals and their families from getting the help they need due to fear of being discriminated against.

Source: SAMHSA

Here are some helpful resources to learn more about mental illness and how to educate yourself and others about mental health stigma.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) 

WISE- End Stigma Together, One Story at a Time

Wisconsin United for Mental Health