When someone experiences a mental illness it can be difficult for others to understand what that person may be going through and how they can help.

When we make assumptions about how mental health problems will affect someone’s behaviour, this makes it more likely that they will be singled out, or labelled as different, dangerous or strange. This is what we call stigma.

Treating someone differently from how we treat others because of their mental health, whether consciously or subconsciously, is what we call discrimination.


What does stigma feel like?

In a recent survey, 9 in 10 young people reported experiencing stigma from others as a result of their mental health problem. They described stigma as feeling:

  • Isolated
  • Shamed
  • Misunderstood
  • Criticised as a person
  • and demeaned

In fact, many said the stigma they received from friends, family, boyfriends or girlfriends, teachers and even doctors was worse than the illness itself!

How can I tackle stigma and discrimination?

Most people have very little knowledge about mental illness and most of what they do know comes from stereotypes presented in the media.
You can help tackle the stigma around mental illness by:

  • Learning more about mental illness
  • Listening to the person’s experiences
  • Being open about talking about mental health
  • Remembering that mental illness is only one small part of the person