Reducing Stigma

Stigma means something that takes away from the character or reputation of a person.

Stigma keeps people from accepting their own mental health problems, much less letting others know.The stigma that surrounds mental illness keeps people from seeking treatment. Stigma takes on many forms. Some forms are plain to see, while others are not as obvious. It shows up as bias, fear, not trusting, and labeling.  It causes many people to keep from working with, spending time with, and living with people who have a mental disorder. Stigma keeps people from seeking help. They fear that the private matter of their treatment will be released.  It gives insurers “in the public area  as well as private” permission to hold back coverage for mental health services.  These methods would not be allowed for other illnesses.

For our Nation to reduce the burden of mental illness, Stigma must no longer be allowed to take place. This would improve access to care, and to gain much needed information about the brain, mind, and behavior. The Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health discussed ways to help get rid of stigma by driving away myths about mental illness. As a first step, the public needs to be better informed.

*U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General Executive Summary. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, 1999. (http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/home.html)