People who suffer from mental illness are unfairly stigmatized in western society. Often these biases occur through micro-aggressions. Insensitive use of language. A silent aversion to people with mental health concerns. A simple unwillingness to learn more about what it means to suffer from mental illness.

In all cases, however, mental health stigmas and biases are harmful to the people they impact. In this article, we take a look at ways to reduce bias and stigmas.


Education should be at the heart of destigmatization efforts. Understanding is a natural bridge toward empathy. Mental illness is more common than the average person might understand. Social bias and stigma often suggest that the mentally ill are dangerous, dysfunctional, and incapable of participating in regular society.

Through education efforts, a much kinder, more accurate portrait will emerge. Mental health awareness can happen at schools, but efforts should not stop there. Public awareness campaigns should target people of every class and age group to have the biggest impact.

Put Faces to Illness

People are naturally more empathetic when they are close to someone who is suffering from a mental health condition. When people who are suffering from mental health disorders come forward and tell their stories, it puts a face to the condition.

Personal advocacy is a difficult but effective strategy that has historically been used for everything from helping to secure marriage equality, to proliferating support for Black Lives Matter.

If you suffer from mental illness, you may be able to help reduce stigma simply by speaking openly about your condition with friends and family members.

Thoughtful Use of Language

The way you use words matters—especially when it comes to shaping social stigmas and bias. Careful word selection can have a big impact on how people with mental illness are perceived. Using mental health conditions as adjectives is common, fashionable, and easy to do even accidentally.

By watching what you say, and gently encouraging the people around you to do the same, you avoid negatively casting people with mental illness in a pejorative light. Not only can this cut against stigma, but it is also an easy thing you can do that might make someone else’s day.

Speak Up

Most importantly, advocate! It’s easy to ignore the mental health stigma, particularly when your life hasn’t been touched by it. By being an advocate for people with mental health conditions, you put a spotlight on the issue, while simultaneously serving as a safe space for people who are suffering.

Being an advocate can take many forms, some of which have been described above. To make sure your impacts are impactful, make a point of standing up against stigma every chance you get. This could mean socially, as described above. It could also be with things you encounter in the media. For example, if you encounter stigmatized language on a podcast or television program, continue writing in to let the creators know what was said and why it might be offensive.

Most people don’t want to contribute to mental health stigma. For many, a small push may be all it takes to inspire change.