I Stop Stigma by…

NOV. 16, 2016

By Luna Greenstein

Stigma is defined as a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something. It’s a concept entirely based on societal perception—and a difficult thing to change. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Those who live with mental illness are stigmatized. They are labeled and seen as their condition—and nothing more. Stigma surrounding mental illness is not only a problem, it’s a deprioritized problem. There’s barely been any new studies or research published on the topic in the past 15 years, and all the older research points to the same conclusions: that people living with mental health conditions are:

  • Given the same social distance as criminals.
  • Perceived as individuals that should be feared.
  • Seen as irresponsible, childlike and unable to make their own decisions.
  • Less likely to be hired.
  • Less likely to get safe housing.
  • More likely to be criminalized than offered health care services.
  • Afraid of rejection to the point that they don’t always pursue opportunities.

And yet, very little is done to improve this issue. Not to mention the complete lack of current research gives people today the excuse of: Those conclusions probably aren’t true anymore, I’m sure circumstances have improved over the past 15 years. But if you ask any person who lives with mental illness, they will probably tell you circumstances haven’t.

What Can You Do?

We need to band together to push stigma to the forefront of societal concern. Only when this issue receives the spotlight it deserves will we start to see change. Here are two things you can do right now to help NAMI raise awareness:

  1. Pledge to be stigmafree. This pledge is a promise to yourself and your community that you will:
    1. Learn more about mental health.
    2. See the person, not the condition.
    3. Act to change people’s perceptions of mental illness.
  2. Share with your community how you stop stigma using the hashtag #IStopStigmaBy. Here are a few examples shared through our Facebook community:

#IStopStigmaBy‪ drawing out others' stories. Every family has struggles around mental illness. Finding this common ground and talking about it helps everyone.

#IStopStigma‪By by teaching middle and high schoolers about mental illness.

#IStopStigmaBy educating myself and listening to others without making assumptions.

#IStopStigmaBy being an advocate and changing the way people talk about mental illness.

People with mental health conditions already have the challenge of living with the symptoms of their condition, to add on the challenges of being treated poorly and seen as “less-than” is sometimes too much to handle.

Please support NAMI in our fight to raise awareness and create change.


“Your illness doesn’t define you, your strength and courage does.” – Unknown


Tell us how you stop stigma using #IStopStigmaBy. Write your response on a piece of paper or notebook. Share on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag to share with the NAMI community. Learn more by clicking here!


AUG, 11, 2017 02:52:41 PM
Salvatore Rotella Jr
I have put my story online at:

DEC, 06, 2016 04:39:47 PM
Diane Mengali
I have a B.A. in English from UCD and have recently completed a memoir about my 50 year struggle with panic disorder. It is provisionally titled Wading Through Quicksand: A Memoir of Panic and Agoraphobia. I'm in the process of seeking agent representation. If I can't find an agent, I intend to self-publish. Two of the topics discussed in the book are the shame and isolation I experienced for many years. I had my first panic attack in 1967 and didn't find help until 1983. I began intense therapy in 1987 which helped me to gradually shed my feelings of being a shame-filled and flawed person. I've come to the conclusion that people with mental illness become stigmatized because most of the public cannot grasp the concept that mental illness is a disease. People tend to fear what they don't understand. If someone is in a wheelchair, or is bald from cancer treatment, they garner support and sympathy because their illness is visible. Since the majority of mentally ill people don't look sick, there is nothing for the ill-informed to connect with. The public needs to be educated. The purpose of my book is to increase awareness of panic disorder, alleviate the feelings of isolation, shame and despair that often accompany the disorder, and to offer encouragement to those who struggle with recovery.

DEC, 01, 2016 06:53:21 PM
Lisa Lach
I am interested in learning more.

DEC, 01, 2016 12:47:39 PM
I educate about stigma using the example of why Adolph Hitler found it critical to first take over the community health process, then how labels lead to stigma, stigma leads into division of the population, that population becomes marginalized, marginalization becomes a social norm, social norm becomes a deviant or unwanted behavior by the overall population, then a deeper form of open marginalization takes place through more enforcement, eventually becomes a form of accepted discrimination, then develops an acceptable more, which develops into a law focused against the unacceptable and now criminalized behavior, with the overall effect of removing the behavior from the social construct by legal due process. So, stigma is much more than a label whether it be a fact or misconstrued information which may start directed towards one individual but emerges against a social class with criminal consequences. (The Mark of Shame, Stephen Hinshaw, 2009)

DEC, 01, 2016 10:47:04 AM
Sarah Marshall
I personally live with bipolar disorder. For most of my life I was afraid to disclose my illness precisely because of the stigma associated with mental illness and the fear of losing a job that I dearly loved – teaching kindergarten.

I am now retired do not fear repercussions from "the system". I wear my semi colon ring and I willingly discuss my illness weather people ask me or not. It is time to get the word out. No one should be discriminated against or fear losing their place in society because of mental illness.

DEC, 01, 2016 10:03:03 AM
Gail Jenson
I stop the stigma by educating myself and others.

DEC, 01, 2016 09:58:55 AM
Lill Petrella
I stop stigma by calling people out on their inappropriate language when referring to persons with mental illness

DEC, 01, 2016 06:44:02 AM
Barry 6
I have severe depression tell people if it comes up and have not been stigmatized. I don't see a problem and since I am interested in helping people with depression that is not as bad as mine, I won't do anything.

DEC, 01, 2016 05:34:27 AM
Edith Jimerson
Great Article!

NOV, 30, 2016 10:26:42 PM
I also talk to anyone who will listen and try to explain what we go threw.How we are trying to fight the stigma and get well. For my son and myself.

NOV, 30, 2016 10:08:35 PM
Mary Akins
I stop stigma by speaking up at my church, preaching on the "Elephant in the Room" (https://youtu.be/vu-x038E08Y), teaching the NAMI Family to Family class, taking other trainings thru Nami to lead support groups, and speak to others where ever I can.

NOV, 30, 2016 08:59:53 PM
I stop the stigma by teaching college psychology and disclosing that I have Bipolar. Their faces are priceless and their frank questions are wonderful!

NOV, 30, 2016 08:37:08 PM
Steven Hess
My goal is to stop stigma with my brother in laws who are in the health care field.

NOV, 30, 2016 08:30:41 PM
Aurea Mega
I stop stigma by being a psychiatrist soon... Hope God lead the way..
I really want to change the prespective of the world so we can love each other and live equally..

NOV, 30, 2016 08:20:13 PM
Selah Valencia
I stop stigma by educating my family as well as myself about the importance of seeing the person and not the illness because after all, we as human beings are so much more than that.

NOV, 29, 2016 05:29:21 PM
Rose Yuras
I stop stigma by telling people about myself. By not hiding how I think and feel and what happened this time, I feel that I have educated those who heard me. I tell people the brain can be sick, just like the other organs in your body. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. You can't just think it away.

NOV, 19, 2016 08:51:06 PM
Diana Lozano
I stop stigma by educating family and friends anytime everywhere I go😊.
Also I share NAMI articles on Facebook.
I am an advocate for my grandson.

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