Destigmatizing Mental Illness: How to Do Your Part

Stigma is when someone views others negatively because of a particular characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be a disadvantage (a negative stereotype). Unfortunately, stigma or negative beliefs toward people with mental health disorders are common. Stigma is harmful because it supports negative stereotypes and encourages discrimination. Discrimination can be obvious and direct, or it can be unintentional or subtle. If you’ve been personally impacted by mental health problems or know someone who has and you want to help, we’re sharing some ways you can destigmatize mental illness.

Harmful Effects of Stigma on Mental Health

Stigma and discrimination can contribute to worsening symptoms of mental illness and reduces the likelihood that the person will find help. Discrimination and stigma can occur on a public, cultural, and interpersonal level. Some common effects of stigma on mental health include:

  • Reluctance to seek help or treatment
  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, coworkers, or others
  • Fewer opportunities for work, school, or social activities or trouble finding housing
  • Bullying, physical violence, or harassment
  • Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness treatment
  • The belief that you’ll never succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation
  • Reduced hope
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Increased risk of self-injury and suicide
  • Difficulties socializing and maintaining relationships
  • Reduced likelihood of receiving and staying in treatment
  • Trouble performing at school or work
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of hope in the potential to get better

Common Mental Illness Myths

To best understand the need for mental health awareness and treatment, it’s important to understand the impact of mental illness in the U.S. In 2020:

  • 1 in 5 adults experienced mental illness1
  • 1 in 15 experience both a substance use and mental health disorder1
  • Over 12 million had serious suicidal thoughts1

Within this year, 17.7 million U.S. adults who received mental health services experienced appointment delays or cancellations, 7.3 million experienced prescription delays, and 4.9 million did not have access to care.1 Based on these statistics, destigmatizing mental illness can have a nationwide impact.

With that said, below are some common misconceptions about mental illness you should be aware of:

  • Mental health problems are uncommon
  • People with anxiety just need to learn how to calm down
  • People with mental health disorders are violent and dangerous
  • People with mental illness can’t work or take care of themselves
  • Mental health problems are a sign of weakness
  • People with schizophrenia are crazy
  • People with schizophrenia have a split personality
  • Eating disorders only affect women

There are plenty of more generally accepted myths about mental illness that aren’t on this list. It’s also important to be mindful not only of generalizations and stereotypes but also of harmful language. This includes the use of words like “crazy” and “psycho” when speaking of or to someone with a mental illness.

How to Destigmatize Mental Illness

Fear and lack of education often lead to prejudice against people with mental illness as well as co-occurring disorders. It’s one of the main reasons why people with these conditions hesitate to reach out for help. This mistreatment and lack of acceptance and understanding contribute to hopelessness and shame among people with mental illness, creating a serious barrier between them and the treatment they need.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can destigmatize mental illness:

  • Educate yourself about mental illness and know the facts.
  • Be aware of your attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors. Examine your judgment concerning individuals with mental health disorders.
  • Choose your words carefully and mind your language.
  • Educate others and pass the facts along.
  • Don’t identify the person with their condition, but rather view it as one piece of the person’s life.
  • Actively support a loved one with a mental health disorder by offering to drive them to therapy or spending time with them every week.
  • If you have any, share your struggles with mental illness and experience when you are in treatment with others.

By working together, our nations can give people with mental health disorders a safe and accepting space to ask for help, heal, and be themselves. No matter how you contribute to the mental health movement, you can make a difference simply by knowing that mental illness is not anyone’s fault, no matter what agenda society tries to push.

Need Help?

Destigmatizing mental illness doesn’t end with education and spreading the word. Another great way to help people with mental illness is to encourage them to receive professional care. If you or a loved one has mental health or co-occurring disorder, our rehab in Palm Beach can help.

We offer various types of mental health services in Florida, including treatment for anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more. We incorporate evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and biofeedback to help clients benefit the most from treatment and help develop healthy coping skills.


If this sounds like it can help you or someone you know, don’t wait to reach out. Call our Seaside Palm Beach rehab today at 561-677-9374 to find out how to get started.



  1. NAMI – Mental Health By the Numbers


Related Reading:

How to Explain Anxiety to Loved Ones

How to Become a Mental Health Technician

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