Stigma Can KILL…

Stigma: ‘a set of prejudicial attitudes and values, which may lead to discriminatory behaviours’

Mental illness has unfortunately been subjected to negative judgements and stigmatisation for centuries, which can even lead to fatal outcomes. The history of stigmatisation of the mentally ill dates back to ancient Greece, where a ‘stigma’ was used to brand slaves and criminals. In the Middle Ages, mental illness was considered a punishment from God, and sufferers were often burned at the stake or imprisoned in horrifying conditions. It’s crucial that we work to break down these harmful stereotypes and provide understanding and support to those living with mental illness (Wulf Rossler, 2016).

When we talk about mental health problems and stigma there are two types:

  1. Social Stigma:  This is what people (society) believe or perceive and what they think they know about that mental illness/disorder.  This could be a belief taken from what they see through media, how a film is portrayed and is often much farther from the truth…
  2. Self Stigma: This is sadly the burden which that person living with the illness believes in, what is being said/written and then becoming that illness. Self-stigma can result in delays or avoidance to get that needed help due to fear of rejection or humiliation.

Many patients not only have to cope with the often-devastating effects of their illness but also suffer from social exclusion and prejudices (Wulf Rossler, 2016) 

Let’s take a moment to talk about Schizophrenia, a widely misunderstood mental illness. What comes to mind when you hear the word? Perhaps you think of split personalities, as portrayed in movies. However, that’s not the case. In fact, the term “Schizophrenia” means “split mind,” referring to the disconnect that individuals with the illness experience from reality. 

It’s important to understand that this condition is not a choice, nor is it something to be feared or stigmatised. While it can be a type of psychosis, where individuals perceive things differently than those around them, it is not the same as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which is another rare mental illness. 

Let’s start breaking down the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding this illness and start seeing individuals with Schizophrenia as they truly are – complex humans who deserve empathy and understanding.

Contrary to popular belief, individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia are not the dangerous and unpredictable people that society has made them out to be. In fact, it’s the stigma and victimization that come with this illness that poses a bigger threat to their safety and well-being. It’s heartbreaking to think about anyone receiving such a diagnosis and having to confront these misconceptions and prejudices. But it’s important for us to work towards greater understanding and compassion, rather than buying into harmful stereotypes.

To date, stigma towards individuals with Mental illness (MI) is a severe social problem as well as a heavy burden for affected people (Corrigan, 2005; Oxele and Corrigan, 2018).  As a consequence, many people suffering from common mental disorders may not receive appropriate social support due to the community’s lack of awareness (Jorm, 2000;ratti et al.,2017).  People avoid seeking professional help due to the fear of disclosing a diagnosis which involves stigma associated to MI (Hinshaw, 2007; Mannarini and Boffo, 2015).  Therefore, if people do not seek the professional help they need, their situation can get worse, becoming a mental crisis and this could potentially lead to some people ending their lives…

How can we help cope with stigma?

Mental health stigma can be a challenging obstacle to overcome, but there are many ways to cope – no one should have to tolerate others treating them differently because of a mental health problem.  People can help to combat stigma by:

  • Seeking out professional help is crucial, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be labelled with a mental illness. 
  • Educating family and friends can also make a significant difference – attending mental health training provided by XCMH can help improve understanding and awareness. Remember, you are not your condition, but rather someone who is experiencing it. 
  • Joining a support group can provide comfort and guidance, as there are reliable options available for every mental illness. 
  • Lastly, consider getting involved in local campaigns to raise awareness towards certain conditions and promote mental health. 

Let’s work together to reduce stigma and support those who need it.

If you want education and support for YOU, YOUR TEAM or ORGANISATION towards understanding STIGMA and other mental health topics then look no further than X-Calibre Mental Health. Please get in touch here or via or website at


  1. Wulf, R. (2016). EMBO reports: The stigma of mental health disorders. Vol 17, No 9. 2016.
  2. Corrigan,P.W. (2005). On stigma of mental illness: Practical strategies for research and social change.  Washington DC:  American Psychological Association.
  3. Oexle,N., and Corrigan,P.W (2018).  Understanding mental illness stigma towards persons with multiple stigmatized conditions: implications of intersectionality theory.  Psychiatric Ser.69, 587-589.
  4. Jorm. A.F. (2000) Mental Health literacy, public knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders.  Br.J. Psychiatry 177, 396-401.
  5. Ratti et al(2017) Social support, psychological distress and depression in haemodialysis patients. Psicolgia della salute 1, 112-122.
  6. Hinshaw, S.P (2007).  The mark of shame: Stigma of Mental illness and an agenda for change.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  7. Mannarini, S., and Bopffo, M. (2015).  Anxiety, bulimia, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, and schizophrenia:  what do you think about their aetiology, dangerousness, social distance and treatment?  A latent class analysis approach. Soc. Psychiatry 50, 27-37.
  8. Nuco training. (2022).  First Aid for Mental Health: A complete guide to First Aid for Mental Health.