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How Does Stigma Impact Help-Seeking For Those with Mental Illness?

One person shared their experience with stigma on the main website for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Here is an excerpt from their story: “They [my family] did not understand why I could be depressed because I had everything I could want…My parents could not understand what they did wrong…I think it’s important for everyone to understand that you can live with mental illness no matter what your life is like.”

Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” Stigma is often rooted in fear, as misunderstandings derive from simple acts that a person has seen by one person or as it is depicted in movies, music, and other forms of media. Incorrect yet common assumptions surrounding mental illness are that, 1) they do not truly exist, 2) a person can simply “snap” out of it, 3) it is all in a person’s head, and more. These beliefs are incredibly damaging, as each person’s experiences are different and their life circumstances, genetics, and more can all impact the development and experience of mental illness.

Previous studies have shown that stigma does have an impact on a person’s willingness to seek help – many fear stigma within the healthcare and treatment realm at well, meaning further time is spent with untreated symptoms. A review published by the Association for Psychological Science (APS) identifies several ways stigma and discrimination play out in various realms:


Action: “People with mental illness are dangerous, incompetent, to blame for their disorder, unpredictable.”

Result: Discrimination may occur; landlords may not rent, employers may not hire, etc.


Action: “I am dangerous, incompetent, to blame for my disorder.”

Result: “Why try? Someone like me is not worthy or unable to work, live independently, etc.”

Label Avoidance

Action: “I perceive the public disrespects and discriminates against those with mental illness.”

Result: “I do not want this. I will avoid this label by not seeking out treatment.”

By taking a look at the levels of damage stigma perpetuates on several societal levels, we can glean that stigma in fact does not help those with mental illness, but hinders them. It holds them back from taking steps forward. If we can understand the nature of stigma as a society, we have a much better chance at helping others recover.

If you or someone you know has struggled immensely with trauma, help is available. Call The Guest House Ocala today for information on our residential treatment programs for trauma, addiction, and related mental health issues. 1-855-483-7800