May is Mental Health Month: Help Reduce Stigma

May is Mental Health Month: Help Reduce Stigma

By Dr. Mark Fry, Ph.D, PEAS Psychologist


Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personality trait that’s thought to be, or actually may be, a disadvantage.  Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health conditions are common.

Mental Health StigmaStigma concerning a mental health condition can lead to discrimination; one may even judge themselves.  Some harmful effects of stigma can include:  reluctance to seek help; lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers; bullying, physical violence, harassment; or health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental health treatment.  This is significant since the National Institute of Health estimates that 17% of people will suffer from depression within their lifetime.  And those with serious medical illnesses have a 50% probability of developing depression.  The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 unipolar depression will be associated with the #1 disease burden in the world; this means that depression will have the largest financial impact of any disease/disorder in the world.  With effected numbers like these, surely a negative stigma cannot last indefinitely.


Here are some ways to deal with stigma:

  • Get treatment.  Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from getting help
  • Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame.  It’s not a matter of personal weakness.  Treatment can help you gain self-esteem and confidence
  • Don’t isolate yourself, reach out to people you trust
  • Don’t equate yourself with your illness;  You are NOT “a bipolar”, you have “bipolar disorder”

Other’s judgments almost always come from a lack of understanding.  Learning to accept your condition and recognizing what you need to do to treat it, seeking support, and helping educate others can make a big difference.