WHAT IS STIGMA?

Initially, let’s talk about mental illness 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.

Stigma brings experiences and feelings of:

  • shame
  • blame
  • hopelessness
  • distress
  • misrepresentation in the media
  • reluctance to seek and/or accept necessary help
Stand up to mental health stigma

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.

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.

Stigma around mental illness exists in the world because of a lack of understanding and knowledge, but many are eager and curious to learn about mental health, especially our youth!

Here are a few of the most common misconceptions about mental health problems:

  • Mentally ill people have a weak character.
  • Mentally ill people are potentially dangerous.
  • People with mental illness should just “snap out of it.”
  • Mentally ill people are violent.

What About the Other Stigmas?

Some other stigmas include the following: Age, race, mental illness, physical illness, physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, education, nationality, religion, and physical appearance.

Stigma is a harsh reality for many people, beyond those that have mental health problems, because it prevents them from enjoying a ‘normal’ and productive life.  In fact, many people are so uncomfortable with the self-stigma that causes feelings of shame that they would rather suffer in silence than get the help that they need.

Stigma exists in our world and makes certain people be perceived as ‘weird’ and makes many issues difficult to talk about and there are many who suffer in silence. Many people feel shameful and devastated and the purpose of creating Stigma-Free Zones is to create conversations free of stigma encouraging people to have hope and be inspired by the possibilities that life offers.

At Stigma-Free Zone we are determined to ‘stomp out stigma!’ We can learn a lot from the stories of other people who have survived mental illness, among other stigmas, and these experiences will be key in helping others to understand the challenges that so many people face. You can hear about their personal stories by clicking STORIES and if you want to take on the fight against stigma too, let us know and send us your story.

We encourage you to understand people’s differences and celebrate their diversity and individuality, which truly makes up the unique fabric of humanity.

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF STIGMA?

Stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person that sets an individual apart from the norms of society. A significant amount of people, particularly those living with a mental illness, report that they have experienced the negative effects of stigma.

When a person is labelled by their illness or situation, they are often seen as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes create prejudice which leads to negative actions, bullying and discrimination.

Stigma brings experiences and feelings of:

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

Living stigma-free truly encourages all of us to stop and question our initial judgement of others and consider that they may

be experiencing personal challenges that we truly know nothing about.

For instance, trying to learn when you have a developmental or mental disability can be extremely challenging. It is actually like trying to catch a football with one hand, or riding a bike with only one pedal! Sure, it is possible, but difficult, and it is up to all of us to accept that life can be more challenging for certain individuals than others.

We all deserve to be encouraged and embraced regardless of our differences.

YOU CAN LIVE STIGMA-FREE!

  • You can start by exploring this website and learn about the stigmas that cause others to be seen as different and consider why we hold negative perceptions and stereotypes of some people and not others?
  • Take our Stigma-Free Test to assess your current perceptions and attitudes toward those who deal with stigma in their daily lives. Challenge yourself to live stigma-free and take the Stigma-Free Test again in 30 days to assess and reflect on your progress.
  • We encourage you to take our Stigma-Free Pledge and work toward becoming aware, understanding and accepting of all people regardless of their situation.
  • You can also write to us and share your story and we will post it with your picture or anonymously. The more personal stories we have to share about dealing and/or overcoming stigma, the more we will be able to break the barriers of silence and encourage people to seek help.
  • Encourage your teachers/school counselors or workplace to host a Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes classroom presentation or community presentation.
stigma-free zone

Feel free to share this website via your social media networks above, and encourage your friends to take the Stigma-Free Test and the Stigma-Free Pledge.

HOW DO I MAINTAIN A STIGMA-FREE ZONE?

  • Actively learn and share the facts about stigma, particularly mental illness;
  • Change attitudes and perceptions about those who are affected by stigma;
  • Talk openly about personal experiences of stigma to encourage empathy;
  • Initiate positive action when friends, family, or the media displays false beliefs and negative stereotypes;
  • Offer support to people who are affected by bullying and discrimination; and
  • Never label or judge people, ensuring to treat all with respect and dignity.

FAST FACTS ABOUT 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.
  • Stigma is a condition created by society. It is a judgement, made by either the sufferer or the perceiver and can most simply be described as ‘extreme disapproval’.
  • The person suffering the stigma will feel a social outcast, isolated and misunderstood; desperate and alone.
  • Stigma can result from many conditions and circumstances; mental illness, financial difficulty, domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical disability, skin tone, sexual orientation, ethnicity or faith. Most often the sufferer is blameless. Often they will feel they are alienated from the rest of society by their stigma.
  • Stigma can contribute to developing a mental illness and emotional trauma and often will lead to suicidal thoughts.  Currently, that’s one person every two hours, every day.

We can create AWARENESS of the stigmas that exist in society to help everyone develop an UNDERSTANDING of the challenges that numerous people face in their lives. Let’s work together to foster ACCEPTANCE of ourselves and others.