Mental illness & stigma

Addressing the stigma of mental health

Everyone has mental health, and many people face challenges related to mental illness. Knowing the facts and talking about mental health can help combat stigma.

  • 1 in 5 British Columbians will experience a significant mental health problem at some point in their lives1.
  • Mental illness can affect anyone no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, education level, or occupation.
  • Mental illness can be effectively treated or managed, so it is critical to seek assistance as early as possible.

1 Here To Help's Stigma Fact Sheet

What is stigma?

Stigma often occurs when someone is viewed as being different in a negative way on the basis of societal, cultural, racial, religious, gender, or other stereotypes.

Stigma is, unfortunately, a common occurrence for individuals struggling with mental illness, who are often judged based on inaccuracies or misunderstandings around mental health issues.

“… stigma can have a strong, long-term impact on the well-being of individuals struggling with mental health issues.”

What are the effects of stigma?

Stigmatized people often experience shame and discrimination. Research shows that stigma can have a strong, long-term impact on the well-being of individuals struggling with mental health issues1.

Not only do these individuals have to cope with their own emotional struggles, but they also have to deal with their worries about what others think of them. Due to the stigma of mental illness, these individuals keep information about their mental health concerns from bosses, teachers, friends and family.

Here To Help's Stigma Fact Sheet

What can I do for myself right now?

How you can help

  • Know the facts about mental health
  • Mental illness can be associated with genetic factors, environmental stressors (e.g., failing an exam, a relationship break-up, parents' divorce, etc.), or a combination of both.
  • Everyone has times when they feel depressed, angry or excited, but individuals with mental illness experience symptoms that are overwhelming and significantly impact their ability to cope with daily life.
  • Two-thirds of people suffering with mental illness do not seek help, due to the fear of being stigmatized [3].
  • Much has been done over the last 50 years to create effective treatments for mental health issues, but very little has changed with regard to negative societal attitudes that stigmatize these individuals.
  • Know yourself to help reduce mental illness stigma
  • Be aware of your personal biases and stereotypes of others.
  • Strive to be non-judgmental and have compassion for those who are struggling with their mental health.
  • Seek accurate information to educate yourself on mental health issues.
  • Get involved to help reduce mental illness stigma

At UBC, groups like the Mental Health Awareness Club and the Mental Health Network take an active role in raising awareness about mental illness and ways to decrease stigma. You can attend their events, or inquire about the ways to get involved and help to make a difference in combatting stigma.