What is mental health stigma?
Mental health stigma is a negative attitude or negative treatment of an individual or group due to a voiced or perceived mental health condition – i.e. discrimination or a view that someone is ‘less than’ because of their mental health.
Types of mental health stigma
The British Association for Psychopharmacology has shared their 2 main types of mental health stigma:
- Social stigma (aka public stigma)
However, it is also worth acknowledging a few other types of stigma that mental health practitioners have identified, including:
- Perceived Stigma
- Structural Stigma
- Professional Stigma (aka Healthcare Stigma)
Social stigma (or public stigma) is when members of the general public endorse or facilitate a negative attitude or treatment towards those with mental health conditions e.g. using them as a comedic punchline or dramatized scare tactic on TV.
Social stigma also includes when those close to you, such as friends, family, and colleagues, treat you less favourable due to a mental health condition.
Self-stigma can be one of the most challenging stigmas to overcome and one of the most harmful. Self-stigma is when you believe you are less deserving of help or an opportunity due to your condition. This is often developed through exposure to social stigma that ultimately results in you developing these internal beliefs. Self-stigma can lead to feelings of shame and hopelessness in the face of mental ill health.
Similarly to self-stigma, perceived stigma relates to the beliefs that you as an individual has. Perceived stigma is when you believe you will be treated differently by others due to their negative attitudes towards mental health.
After self-stigma, perceived stigma can be one of the biggest barriers to individuals opening up about their mental health struggles and seeking the help they need.
Structural stigma (aka institutional stigma) is when a system is structured in a way – either intentionally or unintentionally – that those with mental health conditions suffer or have fewer opportunities to succeed than those without a mental health condition.
Professional stigma occurs in any healthcare setting where a patient is judged based on their mental health condition for unrelated causes. E.g. When those prone to anxiety and stress complain about headaches, many GPs will simply put this down to their stress levels rather than investigate further for a physical cause.
The effects of mental health stigma
Stigma is caused by a combination of misinformation, a lack of knowledge, and ultimately, fear. This dangerous combination can lead to discrimination and misleading stereotypes in popular media.
Mental health stigma can have a particularly dangerous effect on young people – leaving them feeling isolated, ashamed, and scared to ask for help.
- More than a third of young people have felt the negative impact of mental health stigma
- School is where most young people experience stigma
- More than half of young people experience mental health stigma from their own friends
- 70% of young people said stigma made them less likely to open up about their mental health
How to combat mental health stigma
Fight mental health stigma and the effect it has on those with mental health by practising 3 simple things:
- Talk about mental health regularly to normalise the topic
- Educate yourself and others to reduce misinformation
- Evaluate how you perceive and treat mental health in everyday life
Read more: 3 simple ways to fight mental health stigma
Stigma is one of the biggest factors that prevent people from seeking help and talking about their mental health. Our #SockItToStigma campaign aims to get workplaces talking about mental health in a safe, non-judgmental environment to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health. All funds raised during this campaign go straight to our #Headucation fund to support children with mental health and stop stigma before it can start.