Abstract

The extent to which mental health consumers encounter stigma in their daily lives is a matter of substantial importance for their recovery and quality of life. This article summarizes the results of a nationwide survey of 1,301 mental health consumers concerning their experience of stigma and discrimination. Survey results and followup interviews with 100 respondents revealed experience of stigma from a variety of sources, including communities, families, churches, coworkers, and mental health caregivers. The majority of respondents tended to try to conceal their disorders and worried a great deal that others would find out about their psychiatric status and treat them unfavorably. They reported discouragement, hurt, anger, and lowered self-esteem as results of their experiences, and they urged public education as a means for reducing stigma. Some reported that involvement in advocacy and speaking out when stigma and discrimination were encountered helped them to cope with stigma. Limitations to generalization of results include the self-selection, relatively high functioning of participants, and respondent connections to a specific advocacy organization—the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.