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What Is Stigma?

What Is Stigma?

According to Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, Ph.D., stigma is a “perceived negative attribute that causes someone to devalue or think less of the whole person.” Acts of stigma can be both intentional and unintentional, but either way, stigma can truly cause harm to those living with mental illness.

How Does Stigma Affect Persons With Mental Illness?

NAMI considers acts of stigma towards persons with mental illness to be discrimination. This kind of discrimination can make it difficult for persons with mental illness to find employment, seek treatment, and live comfortably without fear of prejudice. Not only does stigma reflect prejudice, it is a significant barrier between mental health services and the people who truly need these services the most.

How Can We Combat Stigma & Be #StigmaFree?

We Can Talk About It . . . We know that mental illness affects 1 in 5 persons; however, it can still be difficult to start conversations about stigma and how it affects those living with mental illness. Starting these conversations can increase others’ awareness of stigma and respect for those living with mental illness.

We Can Encourage Equality Between Physical and Mental Health . . . It’s important that we treat mental illnesses like any other physical illness. We wouldn’t find it funny if someone were to make a joke about someone’s physical illness; however, it’s not totally uncommon to hear jokes or inappropriate comments regarding mental illness. If you hear someone make a joke or inappropriate comment about mental illness, try reminding that individual that mental illness should be regarded as any other physical illness.

We Can Be Conscious Of Our Language . . . It’s important to refrain from using mental illnesses to describe anything other than their factual meaning. It’s also important to remind and encourage others to refrain from doing this as well. If you hear someone misuse the name of a mental illness, don’t be afraid to respectfully address the implications of their words and ask that they reconsider misusing mental health terminology in the future.

We Can Hold Ourselves And Others Accountable . . . We cannot get closer to eradicating stigma unless we hold ourselves and those around us accountable for stigmatized attitudes and actions. When addressing stigma, you should always offer feedback in a respectful and non-threatening manner, and lastly, remember that regardless of how your feedback is received by others, it can still influence those around you to be more thoughtful the next time they think about addressing a mental illness.

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