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Mental health
and stigma

Mental health conditions are just that — health conditions. They are not character flaws, sources of shame or something to be hidden away. Yet, these types of stigmatized beliefs and attitudes surround mental health conditions. When we better understand that they’re treatable conditions, we’re better able to change attitudes, reduce stigma and its harmful effects, and show up in a more informed and compassionate way.

“We are taught as children about illnesses like colds, broken bones or surgeries, but mental illnesses aren’t discussed. Mental illnesses should be discussed like diabetes… it needs to be seen as a ‘normal’ illness.”

— IMPACT survey respondent, 2018

Mental health

Mental health, like physical health, is something we all have. It affects how we think, feel and act. It’s our sense of life satisfaction and purpose, connection, belonging and resilience.

We all have a state of mental health, and it varies. It can range from good to poor or anywhere in between, depending on our life experiences and phases in life.

Mental illness

Mental illnesses, also called mental health conditions, are:

  • Treatable medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feelings, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.
  • Not imaginary. They’re very real and very common.
  • Diagnosed by a medical professional.
  • Conditions that can vary from mild to severe and have symptoms that can also vary based on available care and support to manage them.

About mental health conditions

Mental illnesses are common

1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illnesses each year. So, if you know five people, you know someone who lives with a mental illness, whether you realize it or not. In fact, it’s twice as common as those living with diabetes, which is 1 in 10.

While not everyone has a mental illness, they don’t discriminate. Mental illnesses can affect anyone, no matter race, gender, age, occupation, religion or financial status.

The connection between mental health and mental illnesses

We all have a state of mental health, and some of us also have a mental illness.

What’s important to understand is: Having a mental illness doesn’t necessarily mean a person has poor mental health. Just as a person with poor mental health may not have a mental illness. However, stigma leads people to believe that everyone with a mental illness has poor mental health and poor management of their mental illness, but that certainly isn’t the case. People with a mental illness can thrive and live full, healthy and productive lives, as long as stigma doesn’t get in the way of them receiving the care and support they deserve.


Stigma keeps people suffering in silence. It’s one of the biggest barriers keeping people from talking about mental health and illnesses and seeking care. Turn stigma into support.

Stigma is…

  • A negative perception that causes someone to devalue or think less of the whole person

  • Stereotyping or labeling a person because of their mental health condition

  • Prejudice and discrimination against people with a mental illness

Recognizing stigma in our world

Stigma can take on many different forms and be found in everyday words we use or hear, images we see in the media, misconceptions, and actions held by others about mental health and illnesses.

Words matter.

Both physical and mental illnesses are common and treatable, but we talk about them so differently because of stigma. We’ll know we’ve made progress in reducing stigma when the words used to describe people living with a physical illness like cancer are the same words used to describe someone living with a mental illness.

Let’s all START using these words to describe people living with a mental illness. And STOP using negative, hurtful words.

See why stigma matters

Brave Strong Survivor Resilient Warrior

Help end the stigma

Learn what to say, what not to say and how to support those living with a mental illness.

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