Stigma and Discrimination

30 April 2021

The NSW Consumer organisation Flourish states that ‘Stigma directed against people with a mental illness involves inaccurate and hurtful representations of them as violent, comical or incompetent. This can be dehumanising and makes people an object of fear or ridicule.’

When these representations are acted upon, these actions constitute discrimination. It is an undeniable fact that individuals who experience mental health issues are often faced with discrimination resulting from stigma or misconceptions of their illness.

For a person with mental health issues this can often result in self-stigma, which is the acceptance of prejudiced perceptions held by others.

Families/ carers can also be affected by stigma and discrimination, both on their own behalf and on behalf of the consumer.

How can stigma affect a person experiencing mental ill-health and their family or friends?

Stigma can occur in all areas of life, school, work, relationships, even in treatment settings.

Stigma and discrimination can affect every aspect of a person’s life including:

  • Housing services, real estate agents and landlords sometimes discriminate against people with mental health issues seeking stable housing
  • Employers may be reluctant to employ people who have or are suspected of having mental health issues.
  • Some cultures, communities, groups and family members reject people with mental health issues, blaming them for their own condition.
  • Insurance companies can deny insurance to people with mental health issues.
  • People with mental health issues report being shunned, isolated and experiencing verbal and physical abuse in the community.

A major source of stigma is the media, particularly in the form of reports that refer to inaccurate stereotypes, portraying people with mental health issues as uncontrollable, dangerous, violent and unpredictable. Media reports have sensationalised issues through unwarranted references to mental illness, misuse of medical terminology, or use of demeaning or hostile language.

NMHCCF Recommendation

The NMHCCF believes that mental health literacy education and training must be provided across the community in schools, workplaces and the general community.  The Forum endorses the position of the Productivity Commission which states that stigma reduction will ‘require community-wide efforts to reduce stigma that acts as ‘a barrier to informed choice and deliberate steps to prioritise the recovery of people within their communities’. Along with the Commission, we also call for a national stigma reduction strategy.

Media (TV, radio, print or social media) must follow the guidelines developed by Mindframe and carefully consider and monitor the way it portrays people with mental health issues.

Download the full advoacy brief

Advocacy Brief - Stigma and Discrimination