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:
- misrepresentation in the media
- reluctance to seek and/or accept necessary help
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.