Stop the Stigma

The fear of stigma and discrimination has a devastating effect on those living with mental illness and on their families. And adults are not the only ones affected. Children and adolescents struggle with mental illness as well.

Stop the Stigma BannerMental health stigma can be divided into two distinct types: social stigma is characterized by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior directed towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric label they have been given. In contrast, perceived stigma or self-stigma is the internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination and perceived stigma can significantly affect feelings of shame and lead to poorer treatment outcomes.

You can make a difference.

You can help change the way people view mental illness.

Connect with us on facebook

An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older – about one in four adults – suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time.1

Examples of common mental illnesses include bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, OCD, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, ADD/ADHD, autism and Asperger’s.

For some people, a mental illness may be a lifelong condition, like diabetes. But as with diabetes, proper treatment enables many people with a mental illness to lead fulfilling and productive lives. By helping to combat the stigma associated with mental illness we can help increase the number of people that seek treatment.

The Face of Mental Illness

The face of mental illness in society is a very diverse one. Mental illness affects people of all ages, genders, religions, etc.

Additionally, the stigma associated with mental illness is very prevalent in our society and isn’t limited to certain types of people, or gender.

Stigmatizing beliefs about individuals with mental health problems are held by a broad range of individuals within society, regardless of whether they know someone with a mental health problem, have a family member with a mental health problem, or have a good knowledge and experience of mental health problems.2

For example, a 2010 survey found that stigma directed at adolescents with mental health problems came from family members, peers, and teachers. 46% of these adolescents described experiencing stigmatization by family members in the form of unwarranted assumptions (e.g. the sufferer was being manipulative), distrust, avoidance, pity and gossip, 62% experienced stigma from peers which often led to friendship losses and social rejection, and 35% reported stigma perpetrated by teachers and school staff, who expressed fear, dislike, avoidance, and underestimation of abilities.3

Mental health stigma is even widespread in the medical profession, at least in part because it is given a low priority during the training of physicians and PCPs.4

At the Institute of Living, we offer many treatment options for people living with mental illness, as well as support for their families and loved ones. But one thing we cannot do alone is break down the stigma of mental illness in our society, which can stop someone from reaching out for help, from finding support from others, and even from being a part of their own lives.

Words Matter

It's time to stop the stigma of mental illness that makes it hard for people to get it out in the open, talk about it and seek help. And the first step to stopping it is to address the most common way we perpetuate it: the way we talk about it. Every day, we describe traffic as "insane," we say our neighbor is a "psycho" or we tell our friends that the ending of a TV show was "totally nuts." We're not trying to offend anyone, but we're helping to make these words intimidating and scary.

Community Conversations

The Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network hosted an event for the Connecticut Forum: An Honest Look at Mental Health, on March 7, 2014 at Hartford's Bushnell Memorial Auditorium. Watch the video to learn more:

For more videos, click here. For more ways to support the Institute of Living visit our Fund Development website.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health
  2. Crisp et al., 2000; Moses, 2010; Wallace, 2010
  3. Connolly, Geller, Marton & Kutcher, 1992
  4. Wallace, 2010

Behavioral Health Network