Mental Health Stigma and Its Effects on Seeking Help


By Denise Holcomb

In Ohio, nearly five people die by suicide each day.

According to the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research, suicide is also the second leading cause of death for children ages 10 -19 years old in the United States.  Nearly one in six teens has seriously contemplated suicide in the past year.  Suicide affects people of all backgrounds. Suicide is nearly always complex and tragic, yet often preventable if communities are provided with the right tools.

As Removing the Stigma moves forward with other organizations in 2021 to remove stigma associated with suicide, mental illness, mental health, and substance use in Ohio, we firmly believe that addressing this issue is the best place to start.  

What is stigma?

  • a strong lack of respect for a person or a group of people, or a bad opinion of them because they have done something society does not approve of: (Cambridge Dictionary)
  • something that detracts from the character or reputation of a person, group, etc.; mark of disgrace or reproach 
  • a mark, sign, etc. indicating that something is not considered normal or standard (Collins Dictionary).

What is mental health stigma?

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), there are three different types of mental health stigmas:  public, self, and institution.

  • Public: involves the negative or discriminatory attitudes that others have about mental illness.
  • Self: refers to the negative attitudes, including internalized shame, that people with mental illness have about their own condition.
  • Institutional: is more systemic, involving policies of government and private organizations that intentionally or unintentionally limit opportunities for people with mental illness. 

Harmful Effects of Stigma and Discrimination.  Stigma and discrimination have a negative impact on individuals.  They produce a distorted view for a person needing help, and can cause them to not seek treatment, or even stop treatment which in both causes contributes to worsening symptoms and sometimes suicide.  

When an individual has self-stigma, it can have profoundly negative effects on their recovery and wellness process. 

According to APA these effects include:

  • reduced hope
  • lower self-esteem
  • increased psychiatric symptoms
  • difficulties with social relationships
  • reduced likelihood of staying with treatment
  • more difficulties at work
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, coworkers, or others
  • Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment
  • Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness treatment
  • The belief that you’ll never succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation.

In my next article I will address “what we can do to help fight mental health stigma” so that we can all be a vital part of saving lives. 


Resources used in this article:

Stigma, Predjuice Discrimination Against People with Mental Illness,cover%20your%20mental%20illness%20treatment