Fighting Stigma

Fighting Stigma

Commonly defined as a scar or mark of disgrace, a stigma is a barrier rooted in prejudice, avoidance, rejection, and discrimination due to a lack of understanding. Stigma can impact access to appropriate medical care, housing, employment, and insurance.1 It has also caused people to experience self-stigma, an under-reported condition in which a person internalizes social myths and prejudices about mental illnesses. In fact, 92% of Americans say that there is stigma in our society against people living with mental illnesses.2 Janssen and its project collaborators want to foster a conversation about fighting stigma to increase compassion and combat discrimination, and to explain the importance of science to understand mental illness.

Fighting stigma starts by comprehending its prevalence:

  • According to National Institutes of Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences a mental illness in a given year.3
  • The National Institute of Mental Health also reports that 1 in every 25 adults in the U.S. lives with a serious mental health condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or long-term recurring major depression.4


76% of Americans don’t think that enough is being done in our society to help people living with mental illnesses.5 Below are some strategies you can use to fight stigma and educate others:


  • Have open and honest conversations about mental illnesses. It’s important to use correct terminology when talking about specific mental illnesses like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The more conversations we have about mental illnesses, the greater understanding and acceptance we can create.
  • Avoid using stigmatizing language. For example, it’s better to say, “people living with a mental illness” rather than “mentally ill people.”


Have an open mind

  • You can’t help someone if you don’t listen to what they’re going through. If someone you know is living with a mental illness, or is having problems in their personal life, don’t ignore or shame them for opening up. Simply listening or suggesting that they speak to a mental health professional can go a long way.7


Take Action

  • Counter social stereotypes and challenge your own assumptions about what you’re capable of doing. A good way to do this is to join a group at a place of worship or a group organized by a mental health organization comprised of people who are compassionate and can relate to what you’re feeling.8


Support creative expression

  • Engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer or creator, can enhance one's mood, emotions, and other psychological states, as well as have a beneficial effect on physical health. Additionally, supporting a dialogue surrounding mental illnesses through works of art and creative expression can serve to destigmatize these disorders and cultivate empathy.9


You can also visit PeaceLove, One Mind, and other mental health organizations to find out how you can get more involved in supporting mental health education and the fight to end stigma.

If you or a loved one is having a mental health crisis, know that there is help. Go to the nearest hospital, emergency room, call 1-800-273-TALK or text HELLO to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to reach someone live. You can also call 911 for immediate assistance. If you are living outside of the U.S., see a full list of country-specific suicide hotlines here.

1Corrigan, Patrick W., et al. “The Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on Seeking and Participating in Mental Health Care.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest Volume 15(2). (2014): 37–70.

2Janssen Data on File.

3Mental Illness. National Institute of Mental Health, Nov. 2017. Web Jan. 2018.

4“Serious Mental Illness.” National Institute of Mental Health, Nov. 2017. Web Jan. 2018.

5Janssen Data on File.

6"Choose Your Words.” TEAM, 2018. Web Apr. 2018.

7Kandel, Eric. “Theory of the Mind: Why Art Evokes Empathy.” Your Daily Microdose of Genius. Big Think, 2017. Web Oct. 2017.

8Corrigan, P, and Deepa Rao. “On the Self-Stigma of Mental Illness: Stages, Disclosure, and Strategies for Change.” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie.57(8). (2012):464-469.

9Staricoff R, Loppert S. “Integrating The Arts Into Health Care: Can We Affect Clinical Outcomes?” The Healing Environment Without and Within London. Deborah Kirklin. London: Royal College of Physicians; 2003. 63–80.