What is Stigma?

What is Stigma? Research identifies three types of mental health stigma (Corrigan and O’Shaughnessy, 2007):

  • Self Stigma – Stigma that behavioral health consumers feel towards themselves, which can prevent people from seeking the support of family, peers and professionals.
  • Public (Societal) Stigma – Stigma that comes from the general public towards a stigmatized group – learned early in life (Byrne 2000). Prejudices against people with mental health conditions permeate most social milieu and contribute to exclusion in subtle and blatant ways.
  • Structural Stigma – Inherent in the policies of private and public institutions that restrict opportunities for people with mental illness. Experienced as bias, avoidance, discomfort, and outright discrimination.

Self, societal, and structural stigma combine to form a powerful triad of negativity toward mental health consumers, which delays or altogether obstructs access to mental health services.

Self Stigma – A consumer who has experienced several episodes of major depression has grown up with an awareness of the belief that people with depression are just lazy and don’t want to be productive members of society. They internalize this idea and believe that they are lazy and unmotivated.

Public (Societal) Stigma – There is a common stereotype in our society that those who have experienced mental illness are dangerous when research has shown that those with mental health are much more like to be victims of violent crimes (Pettitt et al., 2012). When people agree with this stereotype, prejudice sets in and results in discrimination toward those seeking help for mental health issues.

Structural Stigma – One third of all the states restrict the rights of people with a mental health diagnosis to hold elective offices or sit on juries, and one half all of states restrict the child custody rights of someone with a mental health diagnosis (Johnstone, 2003).

Information from The Center for Dignity, Recovery & Empowerment 

Reach out for help

Contact the Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region for more information at (403) 297-1700 or email: info@cmha.calgary.ab.ca.