Let's End the Stigma

Let's End the Stigma

May is Mental Health Month: You can help end the stigma about mental illness

Just imagine what it would be like to suffer with a debilitating health problem and be afraid to seek treatment or even tell a family member about your condition because you fear they won’t understand. This would be a very lonely experience.

Did you know that more than half of the people with a mental illness in the U.S. do not seek treatment?

The negative attitudes and stereotypes that a majority of us hold towards people with mental illness is a factor influencing this reality. The stigma around mental health creates shame and isolation and prevents people from seeking the help they need to live a healthy and full life.

You can help make a difference by being a role model.

Notice the words you use to describe someone with a mental illness. People are not their diagnosis. Say “she has a bipolar disorder” rather than “she’s bipolar”. We can demonstrate in our language that the illness doesn’t define a person. We don’t typically say “he’s diabetes” do we? The language we use reflects our level of respect. Think before you use words like “crazy” to describe someone who has a mental health illness.

Be sensitive to people you know who have a mental health condition. We wouldn’t tell someone to just “get over” a cancer diagnosis. One doesn’t just “get over” a mental illness either. Remember that just because someone looks okay on the outside doesn’t mean they aren’t in distress on the inside. Mental illness can be hidden. It’s important to provide support and reassurances when someone you know is having a hard time managing their illness.

Stigma is fueled by a lack of awareness and inaccurate information. Know the facts.

The inaccurate stereotype portrayals we see in movies or on TV contribute to assumptions that people with mental illness are violent. We don't need to live in fear. People with mental illness are no more likely to be violent that is anyone in the general population. They are however, 10 times more likely to be victims of violence than the general population.

Understand that mental health problems have nothing to do with being lazy or weak. Biological factors, life experiences like trauma or abuse and a family history of mental health problems contribute.

Undoubtedly you know someone with a mental health problem and don’t realize it. Many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our community. One in five American adults experiences a mental health problem.

Studies show that people with mental health conditions do get better. Treatments vary depending on the individual and include medication, therapy or both. Friends and loved ones can make a big difference by being supportive of treatments that are needed.

By sharing the facts when mental illness inaccuracies and stigma comes up in conversations and speaking with respect and compassion for and to those who courageously face mental health conditions you can make a difference!

Will you help us end the stigma about mental illness?


  • Jude Vereyken, LMSW, CAADC

    Jude Vereyken, LMSW, CAADC

    For 30 years, Jude has worked as an outpatient behavioral health clinician in the Holland community where she specializes in treating individuals (and family members) affected by substance use disorders; depression, anxiety and stress; grief/loss concerns; trauma histories; and adjustment and co-occurring disorders. Jude has a special interest in treating concerns that affect women’s lives. She lives in the Holland area with her husband and three very spoiled cats!

    Jude Vereyken, LMSW, CAADC

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