• What is Stigma? Why is it a Problem?

    Stigma is when someone, or even you yourself, views a person in a negative way just because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgment from someone else. Stigma can even come from an internal place, confusing feeling bad with being bad.

    Navigating life with a mental health condition can be tough, and the isolation, blame and secrecy that is often encouraged by stigma can create huge challenges to reaching out, getting needed support and living well. Learning how to avoid and address stigma are important for all of us, especially when you realize stigma’s effects:

    • People experiencing mental health conditions often face rejection, bullying and discrimination. This can make their journey to recovery longer and more difficult.
    • Mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability across the United States.
    • Even though most people can be successfully treated, less than half of the adults in the U.S. who need services and treatment get the help they need.
    • The average delay between the onset of symptoms and intervention is 8-10 years.
    • Suicide is the second leading cause of death of youth ages 15-24 and the tenth leading cause of death for all Americans.



    Why be Stigma-Free? 

    About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). About 1 in 5 youth experiences a severe mental disorder at some point in life. Mental illness is more widespread than many people think!

    The umbrella of mental illness covers depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder ADHD, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and many other health conditions that can interfere with daily life. Genetics, envirnoment and lifestyle are contributing factors in development of mental illness.

    Mental illness is more treatable than many people think! Studies show that as many as 40 percent of people struggling with a mental illness forgo treatment, and perceived stigma is a primary reason. Other barriers include lack of knowledge about healthcare, an inability to recognize one's own symptoms, and inadequate information about healthcare resources.

    The teen years are a critical time for awareness and action: According to NAMI "half of mental health coditions begin by age 14, and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24. The normal personality and behavior changes of adolescence may mimic or mask symptoms of a mental health condition. Early engagement and support are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery."

    Our goal is to share information and foster a stigma-free environment where people are free from judgment and can get the help they need. We can reach that goal with YOU!

    Joining the Stigma-Free initiative will:

    • Raise awareness of the prevalence of mental illness in our school community
    • Provoke public interest in learning what is "STIGMA-FREE"
    • Provide students, teachers and staff with an opportunity to become more involved in their school community
    • Allow people living with the disease to feel supported by their school community and thus decrease feelings of isolation and shame. 
    • Link students and staff in need to local mental health resources
    • Raise awareness that care is accessible

    Stigma is 100% curable. Compassion, empathy and understanding are the antidote. Your voice can spread the cure. Join NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Together we can #CureStigma.



    Northern Highlands is Proud to be Stigma-Free

    Take the pledge. The Northern Highlands Stigma-Free Campaign is a school wide program aimed at reducing the stigma of mental illness. Through powerful words and actions, we aim to shift the social and systemic barriers for people who live with mental health conditions. We are dedicated to raising awareness of the disease of mental illness, and we will create a culture wherein people feel supported by their school and community to seek treatment without fear.


    Together, we can encourage acceptance and understanding in the Northern Highlands Community and beyond.