Stamp out Stigma in mental health

Why stamp out stigma in mental health?

Charter Stigma logo in green and black on white. Words saying stop stigma.

We must stamp out stigma in mental illness because children and young people are not receiving the treatment and support they need. Studies say 10% of children and young people (age 5-16) experience a diagnosable mental illness, yet 70% of children and adolescents have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. Children’s Society, 2008.

Are you sufficiently shocked? Enough to help stamp out the stigma associated with mental illness? I’m a fierce advocate for mental illness and determined to stamp out stigma. We need to reduce those statistics and one of the best ways is by stamping out stigma.

“..balancing time you spend with or without people is crucial for mental health.” Amy E. Spiegel.

Give someone a call, let them you you care, especially while we’re having to isolate.


Stigma and mental health

Dictionary definition of stigma: a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. “The stigma of being admitted to admitted to a mental health ward will always be with me”

There’s still stigma against people with mental illness, which is a major barrier to people — particularly to young people — seeking support for mental health problems

Quote "What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candour, more unashamed conversation" - Glen Close
What mental health needs — Image by

Stigma also leads to discrimination, which compounds the disadvantage experienced by people already wrestling with mental illness. It results in lower self-referral, less reporting of illness and less use of support services. As a result, people with mental illness are denied opportunities to equal quality of life: safe home, good job, physical and mental health care, leisure and social interactions with diverse groups of people.

Stigma is everywhere

I’m not sure about where you live, but I know that stigma remains rife in the UK. Fear and ignorance of mental illness exists in our communities, in the workplace, in schools and colleges and even in some healthcare settings.

The stigma attached to mental illness is noticeable in lots of ways. It can be seen in the language often used relating to mental illness:

Quote - Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shames us all - Bill Clinton on picture of long winding road
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of
  1. People, more often young people, still use terminology that’s dismissive, hurtful, offensive or just downright rude! Obviously this can be really distressing – especially if it comes from a loved one, a family member or friend, colleagues or even healthcare workers.
  2. We’ve all heard the negative words used “he’s mad”, “you’re nuts”, “you should be in the loony bin” or “I’m a bit bipolar today”. I even heard one mother say of her son when he was formally admitted to an acute in-patient ward, “my son ain’t no window licker, he don’t belong in here with them nutters.”
  3. One study in 2007 quoted “teenagers came up with 250 words and terms used to stigmatise people with mental illness.”
  4. People really need to be more mindful when discussing someone who has a mental illness i.e. “People with mental illness” are not “the mentally ill”, and “Jamie isn’t schizophrenic”, “Jamie has schizophrenia” and “Hannah isn’t bipolar”, “Hannah has bipolar disorder”. Imagine for a second, “Mary is cancer”. No? We’d say “Mary has cancer”.

Reducing the stigma

Finger pointing at Stigma Circle, stereotypes and labelling, discrimination and low social status

People’s negative and often cruel word choices can contribute to the social stigma that might further marginalize individuals of all socioeconomic backgrounds living with mental illnesses. Changing the derogatory words people use to describe mental illness can go a long way to reducing the stigma.

We must break down the damaging misconceptions and stereotypes around mental illness that create strong barriers to people seeking help. By eliminating barriers to care, educating people about the benefit of help-seeking behavior and promoting recovery and resiliencywe will Stamp Out Stigma.

Little man standing beside a large red question mark.

Will you join me in stamping out stigma? Will you think about the way you, your family (including children), or friends address mental illness and the people who experience it? Would you correct someone else’s misconceptions about mental illness or challenge any discriminatory words they use? I look forward to your comments, any suggestions or questions.

You might want to read a related post “Why we need to shout about mental illness” here or “10 Myths and facts about mental illness” here.


Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

20 thoughts on “Stamp out Stigma in mental health”

  1. I’m not shocked 🙁
    People use words without knowing what they mean… it’s as we already discussed (or I ranted) what needs to be changed in child education. And of course educate today’s adults so that children will be listened to and it’ll be recognised earlier.
    Love, light, and glitter

    1. I loved your rant Eliza. That’s the hard part, how do we educate the adults so that their little ones learn effective communication and emotional regulation 🙂 Caz x

  2. As education is boring deeper and deeper, we still stay on the surface and increase stigmas that have to be stopped. Especially the stigma with mental health because it is just as serious as any other problem the human body goes through and to see it brushed off as a measly ‘problem in the head’ and laughed or made into terms used for casually making fun of people, is just really sad. What makes it all the more a problem is that grown adults start these stigmas and stick by them no matter how much you educate them.

    1. Sorry, just saw this comment in my spam folder Anya? Anyway, thank you for commenting 🙂 Of course, a lot of the time, I blame the adults for not educating their kids. You can’t expect schools to cover everything lol 😉 x

      1. I know not all parent are educated enough to be able to support their kids, guide them and lead them in the right direction. Sometimes, we just thrash around in a big stormy sea for a while, then we might get rescued, get a second chance to put things right in our own lives.

  3. Thank you for this post! I am so sick of people saying stuff like “I’m so bipolar” or “I’m such an OCD” when they clearly mean they’re moody or neat/organized. We really need to change how people talk about mental health because mental health problems are just as important and real as physical problems.

  4. That’s a difficult one, though. My wife will use words like dementia because she is forgetful. And she’s a nurse. From my own perspective as a stroke survivor, people’s choice of words can be dumb but a lot of the time they are said out of ignorance, not malice. And if somebody is ignorant of stroke,,,surely that’s a good thing?

    1. Lol. I agree, it’s mostly not out of malice. Even I slip up and still say to my sons “you nutters” but I think I’m allowed cos I’m one of the mentally ill lol. Kidding 😉

      1. My favourite description of myself was once as a “spaz”. I tend not to now because (a) I’m aware of how uncomfortable it makes other people, and (b) because that’s not really how I think of myself anyway these days. In my mind I’m fully recovered. It’s interesting because, would I use that word to describe another survivor? Absolutely not, but I felt I could use it on myself.

      2. Yes, we do tend to use these words on ourselves. And of course that was a word we used as kids. I’m not sure whether modern days kids would remeber that word, as we do. Remeber there was a money box where either a boy or a girl in a leg iron and they were from The Spastic Society. Ugh. what a horrible word now lol. x

  5. I’m not quite sure what the status of mental health stigma is where I live. People sometimes seem quite casual as they talk about their anxiety or depression, yet other times I sense a subtle judgement about people who show symptoms. I know bipolar, schizophrenia, etc. still tend to be referred to with fear and misunderstanding. I hope, however, that by learning more about these conditions as they truly are (not as they shown in media), I can help increase awareness at my workplace and among my family members.

  6. Stigma is so rife. Before I started my blog, I ran a few names by a few friends of mine. One friend thought it was funny to use words like ‘crazy’, ‘nutty’, etc., thinking I would see it as a joke. I thought it was really insensitive as it’s like my mental illness is a joke to her. It doesn’t matter how well meaning people are, they need to think about the impact of their words.
    And stigma is not just among the general population, but even among mental health professionals – especially regarding BPD. This is one of the reasons I decided to blog again. Right there behind you stomping out stigma!

    1. Tut tut! I hope you corrected her? When I used to teach Mental Health First Aid to youths in the UK, we always did an exercise where they had to write on post it notes all the words they knew for mental illness – oh my word!! But honestly, once they finised the 2 day course, they felt so embarrassed and always promised to educate their family and friends!
      Of course, it happens with professionals too, particularly on the general nursing side – they all got really nervous/anxious when we took our patients over for procedures. They always wanted a MH nurse to stay with the patient 24/7, 7 days a week.
      And boy do I understand, they really dislike BPD because they just don’t know what to do.
      All we can do, is keep shouting out about mental illness my lovely. x

  7. The entertainment media’s stereotyping can be most offensive and blatant.

    The 2008 box-office-hit movie The Dark Knight offers a good example of stereotyping people living with schizophrenia.

    Hollywood’s production and release of the film took advantage of the still-politically-acceptable environment of stigmatizing the debilitating mental illness. Specifically, in one memorable Dark Knight scene the glorified Batman character irresponsibly recklessly erroneously grumbles to the district attorney character Harvey Dent that the sinisterly-sneering clearly-conscience-lacking murderer he has handcuffed to a wheeled stretcher is “a paranoid schizophrenic—exactly the kind of mind that the Joker attracts.”

    Way to go, Warner Bros.

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