A Stigma or Negative Stereotype Related to Mental Illness or Substance Abuse
We use patient-centered language throughout this report. “Prejudice” means to prejudge and generally implies prejudgment based on erroneous beliefs or incomplete information. Similarly, stigma against people with mental or substance use disorders can stem from erroneous beliefs about, for example, their dangerousness or the unpredictability of their behavior. Lack of information about the nature of these disorders (e.g., their causes) can lead to public attitudes of shame and blame. Discrimination is manifested as prejudice in behaviors that endorse differential treatment of people with mental and substance use disorders (Cummings et al., 2013). “Stereotyping” is the prejudicial characterization of an entire group, which blinds us to the differences among the people in that group. People with mental and substance use disorders are not a homogeneous group, and yet they are often referred to as such, for example, in discussions about background checks for firearm purchase.Mental and substance use disorders are prevalent and among the most highly stigmatized health conditions in the United States. Worldwide, mental and substance use disorders are leading causes of morbidity and mortality. The social and disease burden of these disorders increased by 37 percent between 1990 and 2010, primarily due to demographic trends in population growth and aging (Whiteford et al., 2013).
Similarly, while case managers agreed that clients were more likely to stigmatize mental illness treatment, the client survey found that only those in the Mental Health Court program perceived more stigmatization against mental illness whereas the drug program clients and standard probation clients perceived more stigmatization against drug addiction.
Whiteford HA, Degenhardt L, Rehm J, Baxter AJ, Ferrari AJ, Erskine HE, Charlson FJ, Norman RE, Flaxman AD, Johns N, Burstein R, Murray CJL, Vos T. Global burden of disease attributable to mental and substance use disorders: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study, 2010. The Lancet. 2013;382:1575–1586.
Cummings JR, Lucas SM, Druss BG. Addressing public stigma and disparities among persons with mental illness: The role of federal policy. American Journal of Public Health. 2013;103(5):781–785.
Pescosolido BA, Jensen PS, Martin JK, Perry BL, Olafsdottir S, Fettes D. Public knowledge and assessment of child mental health problems: Findings from the National Stigma Study-Children. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2008a;
Colton CW, Manderscheid RW. Congruencies in increased mortality rates, years of potential life lost, and causes of death among public mental health clients in eight states. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2006;3(2):A42.