Stigma – Shan You
What is Stigma?

Mental Illness Stigma

Mental illness stigma refers to the negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have suffered or are suffering from mental health issues. Mental illness stigma is largely prevalent in most societies, including Singapore.

An Institute of Mental Health (2011) study found that two common misperceptions in Singapore are that those with mental illness can get better if they wanted to and that their condition is a sign of personal weakness. They are not true.

In fact, persons with mental health conditions need professional help as well as understanding and support from our community. When people with mental health issues do not seek professional help, many aspects of their daily lives, such as work productivity, relationships and physical health, can be affected. Misperceptions toward persons with mental health conditions can lead to fear of and social distance from them. In turn, persons with mental health conditions may experience greater social isolation and loneliness, which would further hamper their recovery. Let’s do our part as a community to end mental illness stigma!

What Can We Do To Stop Stigma?

Learn more about mental health conditions

Our discomfort towards persons with mental health conditions often stem from how little we know about these conditions. Without being properly informed, it is likely that our understanding of people with mental health conditions may be inaccurate and biased. To reduce mental illness stigma in our community, we must first know more about these conditions.

Recognise that a person is more than his or her mental health diagnosis

When a person is diagnosed with a mental health condition, the diagnosis can often overshadow him or her. Recognise that this person has interests, dreams, desires, hopes and aspirations, just like all of us.

Acknowledge and be aware of our stereotypes of persons with mental health conditions

Stereotypes about persons with mental health conditions, which are often inaccurate and biased, can stop us from knowing them better as a person. These stereotypes can act as relational barriers and increase our discomfort and fear towards those with mental health conditions. While it may be difficult to stop ourselves from forming quick judgements, being aware of our own stereotypes can reduce their impact on our interactions with others.

Know that it can happen to you too

Mental health conditions are more common in Singapore and can affect you or your loved ones. 12% of the adult population in Singapore are diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point during their lifetime (Chong et al., 2012). Furthermore, we are all susceptible to mental health issues at some point in our lives. Such issues include stress from work, school and relationship. Knowing that mental health issues can affect all of us means that there is no “us” and “them” in the community.