Health Information Center
Article location: http://www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/publications/allpubs/OEL99-0004/default.asp
Anti-Stigma: Do You Know the Facts?
Stigma is not just a matter of using the wrong word or action. Stigma is
about disrespect. It is the use of negative labels to identify a person living
with mental illness. Stigma is a barrier. Fear of stigma, and the resulting
discrimination, discourages individuals and their families from getting the help
they need. An estimated 22 to 23 percent of the U.S. population experience a
mental disorder in any given year, but almost half of these individuals do not
seek treatment (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002; U.S. Surgeon
The educational information on this web site encourages the use of positive
images to refer to people with mental illness and underscores the reality that
mental illness can be successfully treated.
Do you know that an estimated 44 million Americans experience a
mental disorder in any given year?
Do you know that stigma is not a matter of using the wrong word or
Do you know that stigma is about disrespect and using negative
labels to identify a person living with mental illness?
Do you know that stigma is a barrier that discourages individuals
and their families from seeking help?
Do you know that many people would rather tell employers they
committed a petty crime and served time in jail, than admit to being in a
Do you know that stigma can result in inadequate insurance coverage
for mental health services?
Do you know that stigma leads to fear, mistrust, and violence
against people living with mental illness and their families?
Do you know that stigma can cause families and friends to turn their
backs on people with mental illness?
Do you know that stigma can prevent people from getting access to
needed mental health services?
Do use respectful language
Do emphasize abilities, not limitations.
Do tell someone if they express a stigmatizing attitude.
Don't portray successful persons with disabilities as super human.
Don't use generic labels such as retarded, or the mentally ill.
Don't use terms like crazy, lunatic, manic depressive, or slow