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Stigma plays a large role in individuals delaying or never receiving support for their mental health conditions. At MHA-EM we believe acting before stage 4 (B4Stage4). Under our B4Stage4 philosophy, prevention, early identification and intervention, access to integrated care and treatment with recovery are all achievable.


According to the American Psychological Association (APA) stigma is “the negative social attitude attached to a characteristic of an individual that may be regarded as a mental, physical, or social deficiency. A stigma implies social disapproval and can lead unfairly to discrimination against and exclusion of the individual.”


Researchers have identified three types of stigma. The APA defines them as:

  • Public stigma involves the negative or discriminatory attitudes that others have about mental illness.

  • Self-stigma refers to the negative attitudes, including internalized shame, that people with mental illness have about their own condition.

  • Institutional stigma is more systemic, involving policies of government and private organizations that intentionally or unintentionally limit opportunities for people with mental illness. Examples include lower funding for mental illness research or fewer mental health services relative to other health care.

Stigma leads to stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination. The chart below is examples of stigma types:

Stereotypes &



People with mental illness are dangerous, incompetent, to blame for their disorder, unpredictable

Therefore, employers may not hire them, landlords may not rent to them, the health care system may offer a lower standard of care

I am dangerous, incompetent, to blame

These thoughts lead to lowered self-esteem and self-efficiency: "Why try? Someone like me is not worthy of good health."

Stereotypes are embodied in laws and other institutions

Intended and unintended loss of opportunity

Mental health stigma leads to:

  • Exacerbating mental health illness symptoms.​

  • Not seeking mental health support and treatment.​

  • Decrease in status.​

  • Limiting access to social, economic and political power.

All of the above perpetuates rejection and discrimination.


To continue the process of ending the stigma of mental health:

  • Educate yourself on mental health conditions, what it’s like to live with mental health conditions and stereotypes.

  • Reflect on how culture, stress and poverty contribute to stigma.

  • Explore your own self-stigma and practice self-compassion and confidence-building.

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