Fifteen years ago, a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health — the first and still only such report to date — identified stigma as a public health concern that leads peoples to “avoid living, socializing or working with, renting to, or employing” individuals with mental illness. Thanks to stigma, people living with mental health conditions are:
– Alienated and seen as “others.”
– Perceived as dangerous.
– Seen as irresponsible or unable to make their own decisions.
– Less likely to be hired.
– Less likely to get safe housing.
– More likely to be criminalized than offered health care services.
– Afraid of rejection to the point that they don’t always pursue opportunities.
Even worse, individuals living with mental illness often internalize the stigma that exists in our culture, damaging hopes for recovery. Their conditions worsen because they aren’t receiving the support and care they need to recover. And too often people take their own lives because they aren’t told by anyone that they’re not alone — that they can recover and there is hope.
To change this harmful status quo, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is asking everyone to take our StigmaFree Pledge. Building a movement for change will require commitments from communities, businesses, organizations, campuses, churches, and elsewhere.
You can begin by being aware of the language you use or by choosing to be open or by deciding to learn more about mental illness.very day, we have an opportunity to help create broader understanding of mental health, overcome stereotypes and break down barriers. When you hear someone using stigmatizing language, correct them. If you see someone using misleading stereotypes, educate them. And never forget to see people for who they are — not for how they act — during their darkest days.
So, help NAMI spread the word — take the StigmaFree Pledge and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Together, we will turn the tide on stigma by spreading awareness, support and understanding for every person who experiences mental illness. Together, we can make a difference for the better.