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Stigma Reduction

mental health STIGMA REDUCTION

While we’ve seen definite progress around our culture’s perceptions and attitude toward mental illness in the last several decades, the unfortunate truth is that mental health stigma still exists. Whether its the hollywood actor who plays a psychotic killer because he has multiple personality disorder, individuals being ostracized from social circles because of an addiction or the way we talk about those struggling as “crazy”, “psycho”  or “nuts”, individuals with mental health conditions are still perceived and treated in a negative way.

When those who are struggling with a mental health issue don’t reach out and ask for help for fear of judgment or discrimination, they can fall deeper into a sense of isolation and their own mental illness. When this happens the consequences can be minor, (such as increased stress or irritation) or the consequences can be major (addiction, overdose or suicide). Just like it is important to seek medical care from a doctor when we are physically ill, it is important to seek mental health care from a mental health professional when we are dealing with mental health challenges.


  • Mental health is a part of every person’s journey – We all have emotions, We all have feelings. Mental health is a spectrum that each person navigates every day. Some days we are walking along the sunnier side of the spectrum and other days we walk down the more challenging side of the spectrum, but no one is immune to emotion or feelings.  Therefore, mental health pertains to each and every single one of us.
  • Mental health is medical health – We believe that mental health IS medical health and should be treated as such. Our brains is an organ and just as susceptible to a disorder, disease or malfunction as any other organ. Just like we don’t call someone crazy when they have heart disease, or blame them for “not trying harder” nor should we do the same for a mental illness. Mental illness usually stems from one of the following issues (many of which are outside a person’s control)

a) biochemical imbalance in the brain

b) trauamatic life event or series of events

c) genetics

d) current stressors of life

  • Knowledge fosters compassion and empowers us to help – A lot of people are unconfortable talking about feelings. Usually it’s not because they don’t want to help, but because they don’t know how.  Information and education is a powerful tool. If you knew that your coworker was snappy with you because she was dealing with a teenager with a substance abuse issue and her own depression, instead of calling her “crazy”, you might react with compassion and a desire to support her. When we have more information about mental health related issues, how to respond and even where to get resources, it can change the way we view our friends, family and community who are struggling.  Click HERE to learn how to start a conversation around mental health.

Building HOpe’s stigma reduction media campaign

Early in the process of Building Hope, we identified that a  mental health stigma reduction campaign would be an important part of the initiative’s work. So we called the experts – Cactus Communications – a nationally known marketing and communications firm. Cactus Communications is known for their very creative campaign targeting suicide in working-aged men. It’s called Man Therapy (mantherapy.org).  We were thrilled when Cactus agreed to work with Building Hope.

Last year Building Hope worked with Cactus Communications to conduct market research in Summit County to investigate  what mental health stigma looks like in our community and why it is so prevalent. Using the data collected by the focus groups, Cactus is creating a marketing campaign specific to Summit County to reduce stigma and educate the public around ways in which we can normalize mental health, reduce stigma, seek help, and come together as a community to support those experiencing a mental health concern. This campaign is currently being created and will launch sometime in 2018.

what does stigma look like?

  • Silence – When we don’t ask someone we think is struggling or don’t tell someone when we need help and avoid the topic entirely
  • Derogatory Language – using words like “crazy, pscho, wacko, nuts, insane” to refer to someone with a mental health condition
  • Assumptions/Judgments – When we make internal assumptions and attribute somone’s mental health illness to character flaws, moral failing or them not trying hard enough
  • Discrimination – treating someone differently because they have a mental health condition or illness