Recognize it.
Change it!


What Can You Do?
Help inspire a stigma-free culture:

  • Tell people how their words or actions make you feel.
  • If you’re uncomfortable, find someone who will assist you in talking with the individual.
  • If you’re upset by an a experience, get support from a staff member, friend m or other trusted person.


Stigma is the action of judging people based on stereotypes and using labels to describe and categorize them. It can be painful and insulting especially for persons who have a mental illness, substance, use disorder, or developmental disability. People who experience stigma may feel:

  • Disrespected
  • Embarrassed
  • Excluded
  • Inadequate
  • Sad
  • Scared


Changing how society thinks about and treats people who have a mental illness, developmental disability, or substance use disorder starts by stating facts. Persons living with a disability:

  • Are your family, friends, and neighbors
  • Achieve goals
  • Go to school
  • Get married
  • Have feelings and opinions
  • Live independently
  • Work


Lack of understanding can add to stigma toward people who have a disability. Many individuals with good intentions may not know that their actions or words are hurtful. In fact, stigma offenders can be people whose goal it is to help.


Stigma Within the Public Mental Health System
People receiving services for their disability sometimes experience stigma within the healthcare industry. They are often:

  • Ignored
  • Labeled
  • Offended by negative tone and body language
  • Pitied
  • Referenced by diagnosis
  • Focused on inabilities


Stigma Outside the Public Mental Health System

Myths and false ideas about people who have a mental illness or substance use disorder affects the way some employers, schools, or local organizations respond to persons with disabilities.

Well-meaning family members may focus too much attention on the illness or disability and less on the person’s abilities and intelligence.


Self-stigma occurs when people believe negative stereotypes and judge themselves because of their mental illness, developmental disability, or substance use disorder. Examples of self-stigma include:

  • I am embarrassed
  • I am ashamed
  • I am unworthy
  • I am stupid
  • I am weak
  • I am a burden
  • I can’t


My Action Step

To help erase stigma, my commitment is to…

(Think about what you know and have learned about stigma and write your own personal statement to yourself. Then participate in eliminating stigma by doing what you have written.)