What Is Mental Health Stigma? By Rachel Papke

What Is Mental Health Stigma?
By Rachel Papke




How would you feel if someone called you one of these names because you’ve shared you have a mental health issue and need help? Please take a moment to watch this video illustrating what mental health stigma feels like.

Using words and expressions that perpetuate stigma is unacceptable and needs to stop—right here, right now.

Stigma is a perceived negative attribute that causes someone to devalue or think less of a person. People living with a mental health issue can feel diminished, devalued, and fearful because of the negative attitudes society holds toward them. They may also not get the help they need for fear they’ll be discriminated against.

Relief from stigma is needed. Research about stigma towards mental illness shows that most people, starting at a young age, hold negative attitudes towards people with mental illness. These attitudes include stereotypes and perceptions that those with mental illness are dangerous to others. According to the World Health Organization, depression alone is the leading cause of disability in the world. One in four American adults is suffering from a mental health disorder this year. But, even though this crisis is so visible in our society, only 25% of those with a mental health diagnosis feel that other people are caring and sympathetic towards individuals with mental illness.1 Stigma can create overwhelming feelings of isolation and shame that cause people with mental health issues to distance themselves from their family and friends due to fear of being judged.

What Can You Do?

Take action. It’s everyone’s responsibility to stand up against mental health stigma by paying attention to how you talk about mental health and suicide, and educating others when you hear inappropriate jokes or problematic language. Talk about mental health. Be honest with people when you are having a tough day, and be willing to listen non-judgmentally to how others are feeling.


Helpful Resources

9 Ways To Fight Mental Health Stigma

How You Can Stop Mental Illness Stigma

Seven Important Things We Can Do To Reduce Stigma And Discrimination

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal, and not those of the Jordan Porco Foundation. The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as mental health advice from the individual author or the Jordan Porco Foundation. You should consult a mental health professional for advice regarding your individual situation.


1 – Attitudes Toward Mental Illness—35 States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, 2007.MMWR 2010;59(20);619–625. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5920a3.htm.