Stigma and Discrimination

If more young people were able to talk more openly about mental health, stigma and discrimination would be reduced. In this section, learn more about stigma and discrimination.


Stigma and Discrimination

Young people say they are often not taken seriously by adults when it comes to mental health and lots of us feel uncomfortable to speak out about our worries for fear of the consequences.  And that is where stigma starts.

Sometimes, it's hard to understand what's going on in our head or be able to explain how we are feeling. But for some 'coming out' about their mental health problems can be really empowering and improves our confidence and how much we believe in ourselves.  

We all have things we want to do in our lives, so we need to end stigma and discrimination to stop negative attitudes holding any of us back.

Self Stigma

Self stigma means that we start to believe some of the bad things that we hear about a diagnosis we have.

Anyone with mental health problems can start to believe what is being said about their illness from what others say publicly. 

Self-stigma happens as a series of stages:

  • Awareness
  • Agreement with stigma
  • Believing the negative things we hear could be about ourselves
  • Doing things that hold us back, like isolating ourselves.

It can lead us to believing we aren't capable of things like, doing well at school, going onto further education, getting a job or making friends. This can result in withdrawing, feeling frustrated, angry, experiencing low self esteem and lack of confidence in the future.

But stigma and discrimination is unfair, and it is wrong. If you are feeling like this, then make sure you find someone you trust to speak to.

We all have the right to lead a fulfilled life and people who intimidate others or make them feel worthless need to be challenged.


Prejudice is when people form an opinion before becoming aware of and understanding the relevant facts.

Prejudice can also create emotional responses such as fear or anger towards the people who are being stigmatised. These judgmental attitudes help to create negative stereotypes which can have a major impact on someone who experiences mental health problems. These attitudes can make people feel worse about themselves and slow down or stop people's recovery recovery. This is not fair.



Discrimination is when someone treats you unfairly because of your mental health.

Examples of discriminatory behaviour:

  • Not having your problems taken seriously by adults, for example, being told you're too young to have depression
  • Being called names by your friends because you're struggling
  • Not being invited for a job interview because of mental health problem
  • If your doctor doesn't take you seriously, including dismissing physical health conditions, due to mental health history
  • Harassment, intimidation, name calling, humiliation, degradation

This is the kind of behaviour that we need to stop.  By speaking up and speaking out we can change attitudes and lives. 

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