Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness Tip Sheet

Shatter-the-Stigma of Mental IllnessFighting the Stigma of Mental Illness Tip Sheet

An estimated 44 million Americans experience a mental disorder in any given year.

Stigma is about disrespect and using negative labels to identify a person living with mental illness

Stigma is a barrier that discourages individuals and their families from seeking help.

Many people would rather tell employers that they committed a petty crime and served time in jail, than admit to having been in a psychiatric hospital.

Stigma can result in inadequate insurance coverage for mental services

Stigma can lead to fear, mistrust, and violence against people living with mental illness, and their families.

Stigma can cause families and friends to turn their backs on people with mental illness.

Stigma can prevent people from getting access to needed mental health services.

Stigma often lowers self-esteem, which everybody needs, especially the mentally ill, because of the stigma associated with their illnesses.


Do: Always use respectful language.

Do: Emphasize people’s abilities, not their limitations.

Do: Tell a person if they express a stigmatizing attitude.


Don’t suggest that successful persons with disabilities are super human.

Don’t use generic or stereotyping labels like retarded, or mentally ill. Every person’s situation is different.

Don’t use terms like crazy, lunatic, manic depressive, or slow functioning.

Source: Adapted from National Mental Health Information Center, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services