Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem?

Call 1800 022 222

healthdirect Australia

This is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Is it an emergency? Dial 000

If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

beginning of content

Mental illness stigma

Having good support networks can help reduce mental illness stigma.

What is mental illness stigma?

People with a mental illness may be treated differently to other people.

A stigma is a mark, a stain, a blemish. People with mental illness may face stigma - they may be treated as different, as if they are somehow less than other people. The stigma is not true or fair, but it still hurts.

If you have or have had a mental illness, finding a way to deal with stigma is important. If you know someone with mental illness, helping them deal with the stigma is a great way to help. Either way, support and help is available.

What is mental illness stigma?

Stigma occurs whenever there are negative opinions, judgments or stereotypes about anyone with any form of mental illness.

Stigma shows when someone with a mental illness is called 'dangerous', 'crazy' or 'incompetent' rather than unwell.

Stigma can lead people with mental illness to be discriminated against and miss out on work or housing, bullied or to become a victim of violence.

Why does stigma exist?

Stigma exists mainly because some people don't understand mental illness, and also because some people have negative attitudes or beliefs towards it. Even some mental health professionals have negative beliefs about the people they care for.

Media can also play a part in reinforcing a stigma against mental illness by:

  • portraying mentally ill people with inaccurate stereotypes
  • sensationalising situations through unwarranted references to mental illness
  • using demeaning or hostile language.

For example, if a part of the media associates mental illness with violence, that promotes the myth that all people with a mental illness are dangerous. In fact, research shows people with mental illness are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.

How does stigma affect people with mental illness?

A person who is stigmatised may be treated differently and excluded from many things the rest of society takes for granted.

People with mental illness may also take on board the prejudiced views held by others, which can affect their self-esteem. This can lead them to not seek treatment, to withdraw from society, to alcohol and drug abuse or even to suicide.

Where to get support

If you suffer from stigma or know someone who does, help is available from:

  • mental health professionals, such as psychologists, counsellors or psychiatrists
  • local community health centres
  • local community mental health centres.

You can also learn more here about how to deal with any stigma you face. If you want to report stigma, visit the SANE Australia website and fill out an online report form or call 1800 18 SANE (7263).

For immediate counselling assistance, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

 

Last reviewed: September 2015

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 168 results

Stigma

Three out of 4 people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma. Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart. When a person is labelled by their illness they are seen as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination.

Read more on WA Health website

Say no to stigma! - YouTube

People affected by mental illness and suicide, their families, and other carers tell their stories and speak out about the impact of stigma on their lives. W...

Read more on SANE Australia website

A Life Without Stigma | A SANE Report

Stigma against mental illness is common. Its impact is serious. Action is urgently needed to eliminate stigma so that people affected by mental illness are included and valued as equal members of our society.

Read more on SANE Australia website

Mental illness and stigma | Mental Health

Read more on Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services website

Work, mental Illness and stigma - YouTube

People affected by mental illness often don't get the support they need at work. It doesn't have to be like this. Learn how employers can ensure they are bes...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Changing attitudes, changing lives

We can all play a part in combating stigma

Read more on SANE Australia website

StigmaWatch: the Report

Tackling stigma against mental illness and suicide in the Australian media

Read more on SANE Australia website

Genital herpes: Michelle learns an STI is nothing to be ashamed of | myVMC

Michelle is no longer embarrassed about having genital herpes and wants to get rid of the stigma - read about her experience.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback