20 Ways You Might be Unknowingly Perpetuating Stigma

Stigma can be described as: “when someone, or even you yourself, views a person in a negative way just because they have a mental health condition.”* It causes those living with mental health struggles to experience a sense of shame and judgement and to feel defined by their illnesses rather than seen as people.

Stigma is the result of countless words, actions and attitudes. Some may seem harmless on the surface and may be well-meaning, but all can contribute to the burden of rejection and prejudice carried by millions living with mental illnesses. As a result, it’s easy to unknowingly perpetuate stigma. If you answer “Yes, I have” to any of the statements below, you may be unintentionally contributing to negative views of individuals dealing with mental health challenges.

  1. If you’ve assumed someone isn’t intelligent because they struggle with their mental health
  2. If you’ve implied that a person’s symptoms are a means of seeking attention
  3. If you’ve averted your eyes when walking past someone who appears to be dealing with a mental health struggle
  4. If you’ve avoided sitting next to someone living with a mental health condition on the bus or train
  5. If you’ve been hesitant about an individual dealing with a mental health challenge moving onto your street or into your apartment building
  6. If you’ve assumed someone is dangerous because they live with a mental illness
  7. If you’ve suggested that a person should simply exercise or get more sunshine to rid themselves of depression or anxiety
  8. If you’ve asked someone who’s experiencing depression, “What do you have to be sad about?”
  9. If you’ve told someone living with anxiety to “just relax” or “snap out of it”
  10. If you’ve suggested that antidepressants, antianxiety drugs or other medications are crutches for those who don’t want to deal with their problems.
  11. If you’ve suggested that psychiatric medications cure mental illness or that those who are struggling are off their meds.
  12. If you’ve referred to someone as “schizophrenic” or “bipolar” or used another term that defines them by their disease.
  13. If you’ve used words like “crazy,” “nuts” or “insane” to describe a person or his or her behavior
  14. If you’ve poked fun at the notion of seeing a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist
  15. If you’ve referred to the weather as “bipolar”
  16. If you’ve assumed that someone who isn’t working due to a mental illness is lazy
  17. If you’ve assumed that someone who isn’t working due to a mental illness is unskilled
  18. If you’ve suggested that a mental illness is a person’s fault
  19. If you’ve blamed parents for their child’s mental illness
  20. If you’ve suggested that praying more or having enough faith would take away a mental health struggle

The Well provides a supportive community free from stigma to those in the Dallas area living with serious mental illnesses. Here, members find a respite from the many contributors to negative attitudes about mental health challenges and build relationships with others who understand their struggles. Your gift to The Well Community will help us continue to be a stigma-free zone where they are accepted and welcomed. Give now.

*The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)