Fast Facts: Mental Illness

1-in-5-graphicMental illness affects one in five people in this country.[i] Twenty percent of children are diagnosed with a mental illness that interferes with their day-to-day lives.[ii] Despite its prevalence, many people are uncomfortable talking about it. Those that have it worry that others will treat them differently, or avoid them. The shame felt interferes with getting needed support, both for the individual impacted and their family members.

Large-scale anti-stigma campaigns involving knowledge, attitudes and behavior, similar to what B Stigma-Free is coordinating, may counter the public’s negative feedback from public stigma, and therefore reduce self-stigma among people with mental health problems.

Mental Health Conditions:

Anxiety Disorders – These disorders include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias and generalized anxiety. The symptoms include chronic fear, worrying, and the inability to be still or calm.

Bipolar Disorder – A condition involving intense mood swings ranging from manic highs to depressive lows.

Borderline Personality Disorder – A mental illness characterized by an unstable sense of identity and fluctuating moods, relationships, and behaviors.

Depression – Characterized by low energy, persistent negative thoughts, and feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Dissociative Disorders – In which there is a presence of two or more distinct personality states.

Psychosis – A disorder in which the person is completely removed from external reality due to being in an extremely impaired emotional and mental state.

Eating Disorders – Including anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and more. Common symptoms include inadequate food intake, excessive food intake, and habitual forced purging.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) – A disorder in which excessive thoughts lead to repeated compulsive behaviors.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – A trauma-induced emotional scarring which includes hallucinations, paranoia, flash-backs to the traumatic event, anxiety or depressed mood.

Schizoaffective Disorder – A disorder characterized by having symptoms of both schizophrenia and bipolar, involving cycles of drastically heightened symptoms followed by periods of improvement or relative stability.

 Schizophrenia – A mental disorder characterized by thoughts, emotions, and experiences that do not align with a person’s external reality, speech or behavior that is disorganized, and difficulty with memory and concentration.

Some Statistics:

Perceived stigma is frequent and strongly associated with mental disorders worldwide – more so than with other chronic physical conditions.[iii]

57.3% of adults believe that people are not sympathetic toward people with mental illnesses. The general public perceives people who have mental illness as more unpredictable and dangerous than health-care providers do.[iv]

Health-care providers believe that people with eating disorders are more responsible for their illness and less liked than people who have schizophrenia.[v]

Diagnosis and the labeling of people with mental illness in some ways enables both mental health providers and the public to group people together, stereotyping and stigmatizing them.[vi]

Discriminatory behavior toward people who have mental illnesses is often derivative of the fear that they are dangerous. It’s been proven that exposure to people who have mental illnesses positively influenced that perception and minimized the discriminatory actions of those who held them previously.[vii]

People who have a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence, not perpetrate violent acts.[viii]

Living with Mental Illness:

Self-stigma

Self-stigma among people with mental illness results from multiple cognitive and environmental factors and processes.[ix]

Self-stigma can negatively affect adherence to psychiatric services, self esteem, hope, social integration and quality of life of people with mental illness.

Many individuals with mental illnesses are troubled by self-stigma and subsequent low self-esteem and self-efficacy.[xi]

Self-stigma and stigma-related cognitions predict use of psychiatric services among people with serious and chronic mental illness, independent of baseline psychopathology, diagnosis and the level of perceived stigma.[xii]


[i] National Alliance on Mental Illness, Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-mental-illness-ami-among-adults.shtml

[ii] Merikangas KR, He J, Burstein M, Swanson SA, Avenevoli S, Cui L, Benjet C, Georgiades K, Swendsen J. (2010.) Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders in U.S. adolescents: Results from the National Comorbidity Study Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry, 49(10): 980-989.

[iii] Corrigan, P. W., Larson, J. E., & Ruesch, N. (2009). Self-stigma and the “why try” effect: impact on life goals and evidence-based practices. World Psychiatry, 8(2), 75-81

[iv] Gateshill, G., Kucharska-Pietura, K., and Wattis, J. (2011). Attitudes of health professionals towards the stigma surrounding depression in times of economic crisis. The Psychiatrist 35, 101-105.

[v] Treasure, J., Murphy, T., Szmukler, T., Todd, G., Gavan, K., Joyce, J. (2001) The experience of caregiving for severe mental illness: a comparison between anorexia nervosa and psychosis. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 36, 7, 343-347.

[vi] Corrigan, P.W. (2007.) How clinical diagnosis might exacerbate the stigma of mental illness. Social Work. 52(1):31-9.

[vii] Corrigan, P.W., Rowan, D., Green, A., et al. (2002). Challenging two mental illness stigmas: personal responsibility and dangerousness. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 28, 293-309.

[viii] Stuart, Heather (2003). Violence and mental illness: An overview. World Psychiatry; 2(2): 121–124.

[ix] Alonso J, Buron A, Bruffaerts R, et al. (2008.) Association of perceived stigma and mood and anxiety disorders: results from the World Mental Health Surveys. Acta Psychiatrica Scandanavica; 118(4): 305–314.

Girma, E., Tesfaye, M., Froeschl, G., Möller-Leimkühler, A. M., Dehning, S., & Müller, N. (2013) Facility based cross-sectional study of self stigma among people with mental illness: towards patient empowerment approach International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 7(1), 21.

[xi] Girma, E., Tesfaye, M., Froeschl, G., Möller-Leimkühler, A. M., Dehning, S., & Müller, N. (2013) Facility based cross-sectional study of self stigma among people with mental illness: towards patient empowerment approach. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 7(1), 21.

[xii] Rüsch, N., Corrigan, P. W., Wassel, A., Michaels, P., Larson, J. E., Olschewski, M. & Batia, K. (2009). Self-stigma, group identification, perceived legitimacy of discrimination and mental health service use. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 195(6), 551-552.

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