Stigma against mental health can lead college students who are struggling with mental health problems to feel ashamed and prevent them from seeking the help they need. Stigma refers to negative attitudes toward, and misperceptions or stereotypes about people with mental health problems. Research shows that about 50% of students with mental illness do not talk about their mental health problems. One of the top reasons they cite for not disclosing their struggles is fear of stigma or that it would change how they were perceived and treated by others.
There are many different types of stigma that students encounter. Self-stigma is the self-blame and negative beliefs about oneself due to mental health problems. Public stigma are the myths and misinformation about people with mental health problems that leads to negative attitudes in the general population. Label stigma is when a person’s whole identity is assigned to a diagnostic label. An example of label stigma is saying, “She’s bipolar” because it is equating someone’s identity with a mental health problem. Stigma by association is the experience of feeling stigmatized because you are close to someone who has a mental health problem.
Since stigma against mental illness can negatively impact students who are struggling, their loved ones, and the larger community, it’s important to think about different ways we can combat the stigma. Here are some ways that you can lessen the stigma of mental illness:
- Talk openly about mental health – mental health problems are widespread, and keeping them a secret contributes to feelings of shame
- Educate yourself and others about mental health
- Be conscious of language – many people get labeled as “crazy” or “psycho,” which can be hurtful for people struggling with mental illness
- Show empathy and compassion towards those who are struggling
- See the person, not the illness
- Get involved in advocacy efforts to end stigma and promote mental health
You can make a big difference towards ending stigma and promoting a healthier community!