Stand Up Against Stigma

What is stigma and why do we need to stop it? Stigma refers to judgments or inaccurate beliefs people may hold about a group of people. Discrimination refers to the unfair actions people may take based on those stigmatizing beliefs.

Unfortunately, people with mental health challenges often experience judgment or unfair treatment because of the stigma associated with mental illness in our culture. In fact, 90% of Californians living with psychological distress reported some measure of discrimination in a recent study.

Prejudice and discrimination often become internalized by people with mental health and substance use problems, meaning they begin to believe the negative things that other people or the media say about them.  As a result, many people delay seeking help. Stigma and discrimination can also lead to children dropping out of school, difficulty finding housing or jobs, or it may prevent people from forming close relationships.

Mental health affects us all in some way, whether it’s our own struggles or those of people we know and care about. All of us have a reason to take action to help create safe and supportive communities where we can talk openly about mental health without fear and can access support when it is needed. It’s Up to Us.

To do your part in reducing stigma, consider these tips when talking to others:

  1. Know the facts and educate othersFind opportunities to pass on facts and positive attitudes about people with mental health problems. If your friends, family, co-workers or even the media present information that is not true, challenge their myths and stereotypes. Let them know how their negative words and incorrect descriptions affect people with mental health problems by keeping alive the false ideas.
  2. Be aware of your own attitudes and behaviorWe’ve all grown up with prejudices and judgmental thinking. But we can change the way we think! See people as unique human beings, not as labels or stereotypes. See the person beyond their mental illness; they have many other personal attributes that do not disappear just because they also have a mental illness.
  3. Choose your words carefullyThe way we speak can affect the way other people think and speak. Don’t use hurtful or derogatory language.
  4. Focus on the positivePeople with mental health and substance use problems make valuable contributions to society. Their health problems are just one part of who they are. We’ve all heard the negative stories. Let’s recognize and applaud the positive ones. View a few examples of inspiring Riverside stories here.
  5. Be inclusiveTreat people who have mental health problems with dignity and respect. Think about how you’d like others to act toward you if you were in the same situation. If you have family members, friends or co-workers with substance use or mental health problems, support their choices and encourage their efforts to get well.  In fact, denying people access to things such as jobs, housing and health care, which the rest of us take for granted, violates human rights. To learn your rights visit
  6. Get Trained

    Stand up against stigma by attending or scheduling a Stand Against Stigma presentation. The program is designed to reduce the effects of stigma surrounding mental health challenges in our community through the sharing of experience, strength, and hope. Stand Against Stigma provides a platform for speakers with lived experience of mental health and or substance use challenges to create mutuality through personal stories of hope and recovery. To learn more, or find other trainings, visit our Get Trained page.