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What Is Stigma


What is stigma? The definition of stigma: a mark of shame or discredit. Stigma refers to unfavorable opinions or treatment of someone who has a distinguishing trait, such as a mental illness, medical condition (such as a drug use disorder), or handicap. Other traits like ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, religion, and culture can also be linked to social stigmas.

Mental illness and substance use disorder is widely stigmatized throughout society. Since being regarded as the mark of Satan or being considered moral punishment, mental illness has varied in ideologies over time, but this of course simply is not true. Because of that, it was historically not scientifically plausible and mental illness treatment was brutally inhuman. Treatment of mental illness is well developed today, but the fields of psychology and psychiatry are comparatively recent.

Unfortunately, there is still stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse. Stigma does not only apply to mental diseases, but it is more prevalent in relation to psychiatric disorders than in relation to other medical conditions. Research has shown that stigma is one of the leading risk factors contributing to poor mental health and drug recovery outcomes. Stigma often prevent people from seeking a diagnosis. Stigma leads to delays in treatment. It also reduces the chances that a person with mental illness or drug addiction will receive appropriate and adequate care.

Before Their Time is a nonprofit dedicated to helping families of drug overdose victims receive mental health therapy.

What is Mental Health Stigma?


An increasing number of people with a long history of mental illness have relapsed in recent years. We need to be better equipped. Although stigma surrounds mental disease there is still a lack of assistance for people seeking support. According to the Trusted Sources of the National Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses are the top health problems. Approximately 50% of Americans need mental and physical therapy during their lifetime. Currently, 1.4 in 20 people suffer severe mental health conditions including: bipolar disorder PTSD, euphoria, and mania.

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Over 100,000 people died in 2021 from drug overdoses in the United States.

Mental Health Treatment

People with mental illness need mental health care to treat and support their conditions. However, due to mental health stigma, this is often easier said than done. Stigma leads to many people with bipolar disorder, or another mental health condition to have self doubt therefore presenting certain challenges for them to seek treatment. In many cases the negative stereotype associated with serious mental illness, causes or worsens depression. Negative attitudes towards people with a mental health condition can cause trouble finding housing, bullying, and other social and systemic barriers.

Psychiatric research shows that people living with mental illness need immediate access to treatment. However, the stigma of mental illness makes people fell that seeking help is a personal weakness. Consequently, this dangerous as the risk of suicide rises with delayed treatment. To compound this problem, "harassment health insurance" often does not adequately cover mental health problems.

If you or someone you know suffer from emotional distress, violent acts or other symptoms that impact your life in a negative way, please contact a healthcare professional today!

Impact of Addiction Stigma

What is drug use stigma? Addiction stigma and discrimination is experienced by those with a substance use disorder. The community often has a negative view of people suffering from addiction, and uses derogatory powerful words such as "junkie" or "dirty" to describe them, further lowering their self esteem. It prevents many with a SUD from ever seeking treatment; independently leading to tens of thousands of preventable overdose deaths every single year.

Often stigmatized persons can suffer severe and devastating damage. With it comes a lack of understanding from others, which is invalidating and painful. However, stigma also has a greater risk of causing anger, depression, anxiety, intolerance towards others and even physical violence. People affected by social stigma experience greater risk of overdose death. Depending on your situation, the likelihood that you'll have a worse health outcome is increased by not getting medical attention. Stigma is another reason for people doubting themselves on how well they are capable of reaching their dreams, providing fewer opportunities for young adults.

The society becomes less open to having someone with an SUD as a close friend, a coworker, a neighbor, or a family member, and social activities are constrained. By restricting resources and maintaining harmful policies, it makes it more difficult for institutions and service providers to provide aid when someone does ask for it. It also feeds a pervasive sense of shame that prevents people with SUD from enjoying long-term health, regardless of whether they have received treatment, and it solidifies addiction as an unrelenting and devastating public health crisis.

Addressing Stigma

Peer reviewed studies suggests a person who has mental illness or SUD can reduce stigma by realizing it exists and addressing it. Individual stories can be beneficial. We can see people suffering from schizophrenia without fear of becoming a victim and they become more real and relatable. Research that intended to address stigma and discrimination in society, has shown its impact both professionally and among people at a personal level. It has also shown that internalized stigma exists, when people suffering start to believe the stigmas about themselves.

Strong evidence is available to support efforts that involve contact with persons experiencing mental illness or SUD, can help them get past the stigmas and give them hope that recovery is possible. There are many services as options, both in person therapy and long-term commitment mental health resources are available, as well as rehab centers for drug use.

Although mental health services are available, many people with mental illness still face mental health challenges. There is a treatment lack in the community for healthy living housing, support groups and tolerance of these patients in society, for example. We as a community need to educate ourselves and recognize the symptoms of mental illness and drug abuse. We need to focus on the lives of family and friends to let them hear that it is alright to get help.

Tips to Combat Stigma

We need to stop stigma. It is possible to reduce social stigmas and self-perceptions regarding mental disorders and SUD by taking steps. Though stigma exists, the problem can be eliminated by raising awareness of mental issues. Recently, there are services and organizations that address stigma and are helping bring it to light. Knowledge is power, as the old adage goes. The more we learn about the life of an individual suffering, either from mental illness or drug addiction, then the more we learn how deal with and fight stigma.

We must create hope through family, friends and understanding and educate ourselves on these issues around us. We must provide services such as adequate housing. A better understanding of the lives of people suffering can better help us support their recovery and boost self esteem. A healthcare professional can treat mental disorders as well as drug addiction when you seek help. Together we can end stigma and get people the help that they desperately need.

Facts on Stigma, Prejudice and Discrimination


Stigmas often result from misunderstanding and fears. Moreover, inaccurate media and Hollywood portrayals of mental disorders may cause the same effects. A recent survey of studies evaluating social stigma showed a large proportion of Americans still have negative opinions about mental disorders and drug addicts. Researchers are identifying various types of stigma. Stigma impacts the people living with mental illness and/or SUD, as well as their loved ones, most commonly relatives and friends. The national alliance on mental illness says most disorders are of a medical or genetic nature.

Organizations and Campaigns

Numerous nonprofit organizations have taken action to reduce stigma in mental health across America. Here are some in the following examples. Bring Changing to Mind is a non-profit whose purpose is to increase awareness of mental illness and raise awareness of its effects. In 2010, Glenn Close was involved with Bring Change to Mind after a family member was diagnosed with an illness. The organization provides resources on learning, promoting an end to stigma and promoting change.

Before Their Time was founded, in part, to address mental health in families after losing a loved one to a drug overdose. Although drugs are dangerous, overdoses are rarely intended. After a family member dies of a drug overdose, loved ones are left with feelings of anxiety, grief, confusion and depression. It is our belief that these families need services to support them as their life goes on without that loved one. They need to hear that it is ok to seek treatment, a belief not commonly held amongst adults.

Mental Health Issues Stigma

What is your way around stigma? Generally speaking others' opinion stems more from ignorance of the facts more than an inability or lack of knowledge. Learning to understand the symptoms of a medical condition can help.

Many of us have known people who were suffering mental health problems. These people who have mental health problems, often develop a disability or addiction to alcohol or other drugs. They're our kids, parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. They reside anywhere in America and come from all backgrounds. Before Their Time seeks to raise awareness of our neighbors and highlight the stigma many are facing everyday.

Stigma, Prejudice and Discrimination Against People With Substance Use Disorder


Most mental illnesses are not treated. Often, people do not seek care for a condition because they fear being treated differently or because they fear loss of employment. It's because stigma, prejudice and discrimination against mental health patients remain huge issues. Stigmas and prejudices can be subtle, and even visible. People with mental health issues may suffer disproportionately, but understanding why this is done can help.

Most people believe the myths that society has imposed upon us that people struggling with mental illness are "crazy" and people suffering from addiction are "junkies". The perception and beliefs are not accurate but most people accept them as reality. This is often true with children, who at an impressionable age learn these misconceptions as fact. We need to address these issues and speak with our children and community leaders. By changing the publics beliefs we can get more people with mental illness or SUD to seek a medical diagnosis and get treatment that they need and deserve.

Harmful Effects of Stigma and Discrimination

Stigma is also cited as an additional risk factor for a person requiring psychiatric treatment. Recent analysis found that self-stigma leads to negative effects upon healing in the elderly who are suffering from serious mental health conditions. In the study, more than 200 people with mental illnesses had been treated in one year, and a third were found to be less successful after undergoing treatment. Harmful effects include: reduced hope, increased or new psychiatric symptoms, difficulties with social relationships, reduced likelihood of sticking with treatment, difficulties at work and lower self esteem.

Stigma at Work

Despite being a national problem, mental health stigma has become an ongoing threat at work. The average American worker has anxiety about talking about the issue at work for fear of being fired. One-third of those surveyed felt threatened when seeking treatment for their psychological problems. Only about one in five workers, or 20%, were comfortable talking about mental health issues. The poll found a generational gap: millennials were almost twice as likely as baby boomers to be comfortable (62% vs. 32%) discussing their mental health. While just about a third of all workers had no problem speaking about mental health, in general.

Types of Stigma

What types of shame are there? A 2013 study on the stigma associated with mental illness revealed that despite growing public knowledge of different mental conditions, the stigma is still pervasive. People with psychopathic disorders or substance addictions are often viewed negatively. Stigma linked to mental health can take many different forms, including self-stigma, institutional stigma, stigma in the public eye, and stigma in the workplace. Self-stigma, also known as internalized stigma, describes a person's negative views toward their own mental illness. Internalized shame for mental disease results from perceived stigma. Researchers have established a link between internalized stereotypes and poor therapeutic results.

Mental health: Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness & SUD

The misconception of the mental illness or SUD may lead to serious complications. Learn how to combat stigmas through research and education. Stigma is that someone views you negatively because your distinctive traits or personality traits are considered - although not actually - a disadvantage. Unfortunately, negative views about a person with mental illnesses or SUD continue to exist.

Despite advancements in psychiatry and psychology there are many stigmatizations. Despite increasing awareness on mental disorders and drug addictions due to the opioid crisis, among individuals the stigma remains prevalent. This ongoing issues causes people suffering from addiction and mental disorders to not seek that help that they desperately need.

Remember you are not alone and recovery is possible!

We urge anyone with mental illness to contact:

National Alliance on Mental Illness


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse

National Institute on Drug Abuse