What You Need to Know About Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination


Mental health conditions are common, and so are the stigma, prejudice, and discrimination against it. People with mental health illnesses do not usually receive help for their mental conditions even though mental health treatments are readily accessible due to concerns about being treated differently or potentially losing their jobs. People who have mental illness are frequently despised and feared by society. They are usually perceived as dangerous and insane due to the stigma surrounding them.

According to a source, nearly nine out of ten people with mental health conditions say stigma and discrimination harm their lives. Whether subtle or overt, stigma, prejudice, and discrimination against those who have mental illness can have negative effects. Understanding how stigma and discrimination toward people with mental illness manifest themselves and how to address and end it can be helpful. This article will explain how prevalent mental health conditions’ stigmatization and discrimination are, their effects on people with mental health disorders, and how to address this problem.

What are Stigma and Discrimination?

Stigma is when someone has an unfavorable opinion of you due to a certain trait or characteristic, such as race, skin color, and physical or mental disabilities. It occurs when someone’s identity is defined by their condition rather than by who they are.

Discrimination is the unjust or discriminatory treatment of various groups of people or things, particularly based on color, age, or sex. For example, it happens when someone treats you negatively because of your mental condition.

Stigma and discrimination are multi-faceted conditions; according to American Psychiatric Association, different types of stigma include:

  • Public stigma refers to people’s unfavorable or discriminating perceptions about mental illness.
  • Self-stigma is the term for the unfavorable beliefs that mentally ill people have regarding their illness, particularly internalized humiliation.
  • Institutional stigma is more pervasive and involves laws and practices of public and private institutions that purposefully or accidentally restrict opportunities for individuals with mental illness. Instances include less money for research into mental illness or fewer mental health services than other medical options.

Individuals with mental illnesses are not the only ones negatively impacted by stigma; their dear ones, sometimes including their families, also suffer. Furthermore, stigma can severely hamper access to mental health care for members of various racial and ethnic communities due to the stigma associated with mental illness.

Significant Statistics on Stigma and Discrimination Against People with Mental Illness

It is well-known that stigma and discrimination are widespread worldwide toward those diagnosed with mental health issues. A 2016 study on stigma concluded that “those with mental illness do not have the same societal value as people without mental illness” in any nation, society, or culture.

Hence, knowing how widely common stigma is is important in addressing the issue. Some important statistics that you should know regarding stigma and discrimination against mental illness include:

Statistics on reduced chances of seeking mental care due to stigma:

  • 90 percent of young adults and teens with depressive symptoms are investigating mental health concerns online, and most are accessing other people’s health stories through blogs, podcasts, and videos instead of visiting a psychologist, according to a 2020 national poll of 14 to 22-year-olds.
  • About 60 percent of adults with mental disorders don’t obtain care.
  • Stigma is one of the main causes of people not receiving care for mental illness, according to a survey of more than 90,000 people.
  • 12.6 percent of respondents claimed they denied care because their family, friends, or community might think less of them. 12 percent said it might affect their job, and 9 percent said they did not want other people to find out.
  • Only 7 percent of people in developed nations believe that mental illness can be cured.
  • Greater self-stigma was linked to worse recovery from mental illness after one and two years, according to a 2017 study involving more than 200 people with mental illness over two years.

Statistics on the perception of people towards people with mental conditions:

  • 53 percent don’t agree that people are compassionate and caring toward those with mental illness.
  • 15 percent think that those who have mental illness are a societal burden.
  • In developed nations, 7 to 8 percent of individuals believe that those with mental illness are more violent. 
  • Meanwhile, 18 percent of respondents to another survey disagreed that people with mental disorders are less harmful than they are perceived to be.

Statistics on the recognition of stigma towards mental illness:

  • 98 percent agreed that stigma and prejudice towards people with mental conditions exist.
  • 51 percent of Americans say that stigma and discrimination towards those who are mentally ill is very common. 35 percent say they have “some,” while 13 percent say they have “little to none.
  • According to CBS News Poll, the majority of Americans-79 percent-agree that mental illnesses are actual diseases. At the same time, 66 percent think that people who require care can obtain it through proper treatment.
  • 66 percent said that mental illnesses are a very serious public health issue, whereas 28 percent thought it is somewhat serious, and 5 percent did not think it was all serious.

Statistics on people who feel stigmatized:

  • The American Psychiatric Association (APA) conducted a national survey in 2019 that revealed mental health stigma is still a significant issue in the workplace. A little over half of the workforce expressed fear about having these conversations at work. More than one-third were worried they might face reprisals or lose their jobs if they sought mental health treatment.
  • Only 20 percent of employees said they are comfortable discussing their mental health problems. It is stated that comfort levels vary with age; 62 percent of Millenials reported being more comfortable than 32 percent of Baby Boomers.
  • Young individuals, men, minorities, members of the military, and health professionals are those most harmed by stigma.
  • According to Recovery Research Institute, the most stigmatized group is those with an illegal drug abuse disorder, followed by those with an alcohol abuse disorder.

Harmful Effects of Stigma and Discrimination

Based on the following statistics, we could conclude that stigma and discrimination are common among those with mental health conditions. The stigma and discrimination could harm those suffering from it negatively; statistics stated that the primary reason for people with mental illness who do not seek medical help is the fear of being stigmatized.

Other potentially harmful effects of stigma and discrimination include:

  • social isolation
  • Internalization of the negative beliefs that your condition will not improve or that you will not succeed in your endeavors
  • low self-esteem
  • avoiding medical care
  • work discrimination or unemployment
  • criminal injustice
  • worsened psychiatric symptoms
  • Physical harassment and bullying 

The stigmatization and discrimination toward people with mental illness make their condition twice as hard since they need to battle against their mental struggles and other external factors.

Ways to Cope with Stigma

It seems that the stigma and discrimination toward people with mental conditions are not going away soon. Finding ways to help cope with it is crucial in mitigating its impact.

Here are several ways you can deal with stigma, according to Mayo Clinic:

  • Get medical help. You might be hesitant to acknowledge your need for treatment. Do not hesitate to seek assistance because you are worried about receiving a mental disorder diagnosis. Treatment can offer relief by figuring out what’s wrong and lessening symptoms that interfere with your career and personal life.
  • Don’t let stigma lead to shame and self-doubt. Stigma comes from a variety of sources. You can erroneously think that you are weak or that you should be able to manage your illness on your own. You can build self-esteem and eliminate negative self-judgment by going to counseling, learning more about your illness, and connecting with others who are also struggling with mental illness.
  • Do not link your condition with yourself. Instead of seeing it as something that identifies you, treat it as something you have. As a replacement to saying “I’m bipolar,” say “I have a bipolar disease,” or “I have schizophrenia,” rather than calling yourself “a schizophrenic.”
  • Sign up for a support group. Some regional and national organizations provide local programs and online resources to educate people with a mental illness, their loved ones, and the general public. These resources work to minimize stigma. A few state and federal organizations provide support for those with mental illness.
  • Ask for assistance at your school. Find out what plans and programs can be helpful if you or your kid has a mental illness that interferes with learning. It is unjust to discriminate against students because of a mental condition, and teachers at all levels—primary, secondary, and college—must make every effort to accommodate these kids. Ask professors, administrators, or teachers for advice on the most effective strategies and tools. Lack of knowledge about a student’s impairment by a teacher may result in prejudice, obstacles to learning, and subpar grades.
  • Be vocal about stigma. Think about sharing your ideas at gatherings, in letters to the editor, or online. It can encourage those suffering the same difficulties and inform the public about mental illness.

Ways to Help Fight Stigma

Everyone has a part in building an inclusive community that rejects prejudice and encourages healing. You may assist by:

  • finding out the truth about mental illness and telling family, friends, coworkers, and students about it
  • Get to know those who have experienced mental illness firsthand so you can learn to recognize them for what they are as individuals rather than their disease.
  • Not naming, condemning, or discriminating against anyone who has mental illnesses. It is important to remember that everyone should extend respect and dignity fairly.
  • Avoid using language that prioritizes the patient’s condition over their person. Instead of saying “that individual is bipolar,” say “that person has bipolar disorder.”
  • Expressing yourself if you notice someone close to you making erroneous or stereotyped remarks regarding mental illness.
  • Provide a personal account of your mental illness if you have experienced it. This will assist in debunking misconceptions and inspire others to do the same. Mental illness is not a shameful condition that needs to be kept secret.


Despite being a widely prevalent issue, overcoming the challenges that come with stigma and discrimination is still difficult. The negative implications of it will continue to unfold and severely affect people with mental illness, from refusing to seek help to social discrimination and worsening mental conditions.

However, through initiatives, people suffering from mental health stigma could alleviate its effects. Initiatives include educating other people on your mental condition, seeking support from your loved ones or family and friends, and sharing your own experiences so you can shed light on other people fighting the same battle.

More importantly, the efforts to fight mental health stigma do not stop here because everyone has a role to play. Every individual should take the initiative to learn about different mental health conditions and understand what people living with them experience daily. People should sympathize more with mentally ill people and help clear the common misconception surrounding them.

Through consistent efforts to educate and raise awareness of mental health and its stigma, there is hope that someday, people with mental health conditions could live freely and proudly.

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