What is Stigma?
- having fixed ideas and judgments—such as thinking that people with substance use and mental health problems are not normal or not like us; that they caused their own problems; or that they can simply get over their problems if they want to
- fearing and avoiding what we don’t understand—such as excluding people with substance use and mental health problems from regular parts of life (for example, from having a job or a safe place to live)
We all have attitudes and judgments that affect how we think about and behave toward others. When we have negitive attitudes and behaviour toward others based on things such as their mental health, gender, sexual orientation, culture, race or religion, we are acting with prejudice and discrimination.
The lives of people living with addictions and mental illness are often drastically altered by the symptoms of the illness and society’s reaction to them. While symptoms can usually be mitigated by a number of measures, the inherent stigma and discrimination associated with addictions and mental illness may persist for a lifetime and can manifest themselves in a number of subtle and not so subtle ways. Typically, stigma takes the form of stereotyping, distrust, fear, or avoidance and can negatively impact pursuit of treatment, employment and income, self worth, and families. Individuals with addictions and mental illness are commonly labelled as a result of their appearance, behaviour, treatment, socioeconomic status, and also due to the negative depiction of mental illness so prevalent in the media. Individuals with addictions and mental illness are stereotyped as dangerous, unpredictable, and as weak willed. Along with the stigma faced by the individual, associative stigma can impact the family and friends of that person.