Conquering the Real Demon of Mental Illness: Stigma

World Bipolar Day 2018

Mental Illness and Stigma

mental illness stigma


Roughly 1 in 5 adults in the United States or 43.8 million or 18.5% of the population will experience a mental illness in a given year.  That is a HUGE number.  You can only assume that mental illness and mental illness stigma is everywhere you go.  The Starbucks barista fixing your latte; the nurse at your doctor’s office checking your pulse; the mechanic at the auto shop who worked on your brakes; your co-worker down the hall with the cute red handbag; your child’s teacher who stays later after school every day; the elected official in your town who saved the tax payers money; the clerk at the grocery store ringing up your groceries; or your daughter’s boyfriend who just pulled into the driveway.

These same people mentioned above have children, spouses, careers, like/dislikes, bills, dreams.  These same people feel stigma and also think of suicide.  Suicide in America is the 10th leading cause of death.  People usually do not just wake up one morning out of the blue and flippantly say, “I am going to kill myself”. Highly unlikely.  These thoughts have been going on for a long time.  Life holds no punches back for the mentally ill.  Divorce still shatters homes; death brings a family together or pulls them apart; making ends meet every month is hard for them, too.  But the one thing different between you and me, is stigma.

mental illness stigma


Across society, there are still people who think the symptoms of psychopathy are threatening and must be uncomfortable to them.  These attitudes toward real people who have real medical illnesses of the brain must stop!

Mental illness stigma = brain drain

There are actually two different types of stigma: social stigma and perceived stigma or self-stigma.  Social stigma is the prejudicial and discrimination toward people with mental illnesses.  This happens as a result of the psychiatric label placed on them.  The latter two stigmas come from the perception of discrimination by the person with the mental illness.

One of the most common beliefs concerning people with mental health issues is they are dangerous such as an alcoholic or someone with schizophrenia.  Another misnomer is some mental disorders are self-inflicted like eating disorders and substance abuse.  Also, people believed that the mentally ill were difficult to talk to.

mental illness stigma

Substance Abuse

All kinds of people carry stigmatizing beliefs regarding people who have mentally ill problems.  This is regardless if the “normal person” has a relative or a close friend with mental health issues.

So who throws the bucket of stigma on the mentally ill person?  Family members, psychiatrists, teachers or peers (to name a few).  The mentally ill person often experiences accusations, distrust, avoidance, pity and gossip.  They also lost friendships and experienced social rejection.

Where did we dig up these stigmas?

People often think others who have a mental illness are “different”, they have misguided views; however, neither of these are based in fact.  The early beliefs of demon possession were usually explanations for the mental illnesses symptoms for some communities.

Fast forward to today.  We realize people with a mental illness is different from those of physical disorders.  This implies that someone with depression is different from a “normally” functioning individual.  Also, the medical model requires a diagnosis which implies a label.  This further perpetuates the idea that mentally ill people cannot function in society and may be violent.

Eight ways to fight stigma against the mentally ill

  1. Speak openly about mental health.
  2. Empower yourself by educating yourself and others about mental illness.
  3. Watch your language.
  4. Encourage equality.
  5. Show empathy and compassion.
  6. Stop the criminalization of the mentally ill.
  7. Stand up for the way people with mental illnesses are portrayed in the media.
  8. See the person, not the illness.
mental illness stigma

Seeing the person – not the illness.

Call to Action

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Going Further/References