The Link Between Mental Health Stigma And Discrimination

The Link Between Mental Health Stigma And Discrimination


Stigma and discrimination are barriers that prevent people with mental health problems from getting the support they need. These barriers keep people from using the services they need, which can lead to more severe problems. Stigma and discrimination can also isolate people with mental health problems from friends, family members, or co-workers – making it even harder for them to get better.

What is stigma?

Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart from the rest of society. It's often associated with shame, embarrassment, or humiliation.

For example, if you have an illness like cancer or HIV/AIDS and talk about it publicly at work or school, people may judge you as being weak or having poor morals because they think only "bad" people get sick. This kind of stigma can lead to discrimination against those with mental health issues as well--you might be treated differently by others because they think there's something wrong with your brain instead of just treating everyone equally no matter what happens to them.

Why is stigma so dangerous?

Stigma is a barrier to accessing mental health services, which can lead to more severe symptoms and longer recovery time. Stigma can also prevent people from seeking employment, housing, and even bank accounts. For example:

  • In one study of young adults with depression, those who experienced stigma were less likely to seek treatment than those who did not experience stigma
  • In another study looking at older adults with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSDs), those with higher levels of perceived stigma were more likely to have lower self-esteem, lower life satisfaction scores, and higher rates of disability

How do people become stigmatized?

Stigma is a result of ignorance, fear, and misunderstanding. It's also the result of a lack of knowledge and education about mental health conditions. Stigma can be overt or subtle. In some cases, people will make jokes about mental illness or may even call it by another name (like "crazy" or "insane") as if they were making fun of someone who is different from them in some way. This type of stigmatization happens when people don't know anything else about mental health conditions other than what they've heard from other people who don't know much, either! For example: If you haven't been diagnosed with depression yourself but have heard that it's something terrible that makes you feel sad all the time, then this might affect how comfortable you feel talking openly about your feelings with friends or family members who don't understand depression very well either...and even though those people mean nothing by their comments/questions/jokes, etc., they could still hurt someone who doesn't want to talk about being depressed out loud yet because he doesn't feel ready yet.

Mental health stigma can be hard to fight, but it's essential to fight it

  • Stigma and discrimination are harmful to people with mental health problems.
  • Stigmatizing attitudes prevent people from getting the support they need, which can lead to their condition getting worse.
  • Many employers have policies that discriminate against people with mental health problems, even though there's no evidence that these employees are any less productive or reliable than their colleagues without such issues.

What is mental health discrimination?

Discrimination against people with mental health problems is when a person is treated differently because of a mental health problem. This can be direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional. It could be based on the person's mental health problem or their treatment for it. Either way, it's wrong and needs to stop!

Mental health discrimination may include:

  • Being refused employment opportunities because you have had depression in the past
  • Being denied accommodation while homeless because you use medication for anxiety problems

Stigma and discrimination by association: family, friends, co-workers, and others

Stigma and discrimination by the association are often overlooked, but they can have a severe impact on those with mental health problems. Stigma and discrimination can have a negative effect on people with mental health problems and their families. When someone you love has a mental health problem, it's hard enough for you to cope with their illness without feeling ashamed because of what others might think about you or your family. If other people know about your loved one's condition, they may be reluctant to get closer to them or even avoid interacting altogether out of fear that others will judge them for associating with someone who is ill in some way. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness for those living with chronic conditions such as depression or schizophrenia--and these feelings could make things worse over time!

The impact of stigma and discrimination on people with a mental health problem

Stigma and discrimination can affect people with mental health problems in many ways. They may feel:

  • different from others, alone and isolated
  • less confident about their abilities and worth as a person
  • unable to ask for help when they need it because of fear that others will judge them or reject them

What you can do to challenge stigma and discrimination

  • Speak out against stigma and discrimination.
  • Talk about your own experience with mental health problems.
  • Share your story with others, including family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Ask questions if you don't understand something or feel uncomfortable about it (e.g., "What do you mean by 'crazy'?").
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help when needed (e.g., "I'm struggling with depression right now; can I talk to someone at work?").
  • And don't be afraid to talk about your mental health problems with others who are close in order for them to understand what's going on with you and how best they can assist (e.g., "I've been feeling really anxious lately; could we meet up after work tomorrow so we can go through some strategies together?").

The best way to reduce stigma is through education. If people know more about mental health and the challenges that people with mental health problem face, they will be less likely to discriminate against them.

There’s more research needed about the impact of stigma on people with mental health problems

Research has shown that discrimination can have adverse effects on physical and mental health, but it's unclear whether being discriminated against has an impact on your likelihood of developing a mental health condition in the first place.

Stigma and discrimination prevent people from getting the support they need

Stigma and discrimination prevent people from getting the support they need.

  • Stigma can lead to people not seeking treatment for their mental health issues. They may be afraid that their friends and family will find out and reject them, or they may feel ashamed of their condition. This can make it harder for them to get a job or home, as well as other services that rely on employers' or landlords' approval (like insurance).
  • Stigma also makes it harder for those who have experienced discrimination because of their mental health status to speak out about it--and this silence prevents us from understanding just how prevalent these experiences are in our communities.


It’s time for people with mental health problems to be treated with respect, not shame. Stigma and discrimination are dangerous because they prevent people from getting the support they need. And if we want to put an end to the stigma around mental health, we need everyone—from government leaders to employers, friends, and family members—to do their part in fighting against it.


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