Mental Health Stigma: What is It? How does it show up, and how we can beat it! 21-Day Mental Health Stigma Detox Day 2

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Mental health stigma is a big topic these days. So what is it? How does it show up, and how can we beat it?

It's easy as: 1. Education 2. Contact 3. Advocacy
Today, we're sharing research on what’s worked as we roll through day two of our 21-Day Mental Health Stigma Detox tied to "We're All a Bit Nutty; it's what makes us so sweet!"

What is Stigma?

There's both public stigma and self-stigma. Each include three major elements.

1. Public Stigma:
A. Stereotype
Negative belief about a group (e.g., dangerousness, incompetence, character weakness).
B. Prejudice
Agreement with belief and/or negative emotional reaction (e.g., anger, fear).
C. Discrimination
Behavior response to prejudice (e.g., avoidance, withhold employment and housing opportunities, withhold help). (1)

2. Self-Stigma:
A. Stereotype
Negative belief about the self(e.g., character weakness, incompetence).
B. Prejudice
Agreement with belief, negative emotional reaction (e.g., low self-esteem, low self-efficacy).
C. Discrimination
Behavior response to prejudice (e.g., fails to pursue work and housing opportunities). (1)

Whew! Those definitions were pretty academic, but it’s helpful to break it down, so what can we do now to help? We have three main levers for change: education, contact, and advocacy.

1. Education
Education is successful in improving public attitudes about mental illness and mental health, especially when correcting misinformation and replacing incorrect negative attitudes and beliefs with factual positive ones. Education is most effective when combined with behavioral changes. (2)

2. Contact
“Across a wide range of stigmatizing conditions, people without the stigmatized conditions have little meaningful contact with those who have these conditions. Lack of contact fosters discomfort, distrust, and fear.” Sharing and seeing stories of success through (and because of) challenges helps overcome this divide and creates a positive connection. Even better when combined with education! (2)

3. Advocacy
“Policies that disqualify people with mental illness from receiving health insurance coverage are an example of overt structural stigma; in contrast, failure of police officials to distinguish between mental health apprehensions and suicide attempts on criminal record checks is an example of covert structural stigma or of stigma at the structural level.” Talking with lawmakers to realize structural change is key! (2)

What Can I Do Right Now?
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(1) “Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness” Patrick W. Corrigan and Amy C. Watson World psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), (2002) 1(1), 16–20.

(2) Committee on the Science of Changing Behavioral Health Social Norms; Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Ending Discrimination Against People with Mental and Substance Use Disorders: The Evidence for Stigma Change. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2016 Aug 3. 4, Approaches to Reducing Stigma. Available from: