What is Stigma?

Reducing Stigma about Stress and Related Conditions

Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets an individual or a group apart. It’s a label. A stereotype. A pre-judgment before getting to really know the person and the details of their situation. Stigma leads people to reject, avoid, or fear those they perceive as different. We’ve all seen stigma in action, and probably experienced it ourselves as well.

There are lots of different kinds of stigma. At Change to Chill, we’re most concerned with stigma about stress and related problems such as anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions. We also know there can be stigma about things people do to take care of themselves, such as meditation or breathing exercises. Some people think those things are silly or really weird. But we know they are really awesome…and we’re out to convince others of the same thing!


Why Stigma Matters

When it comes to stress, stigma makes things worse, especially if the stress is causing an already stressed person to also feel anxious or depressed. If someone is having a hard time and they feel judged, stereotyped, or labeled because of it, it can:

  • stop the person from getting help
  • make them feel embarrassed, ashamed, hopeless and even like they are a problem for those around them
  • be even harder to deal with than the original source of the stress.

Stigma can make it so that people who really need help don’t get it. For example, we know that depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions are treatable. Still, in the United States people who have these conditions wait an average of 10 years before seeking treatment. Part of the problem is stigma…it’s not always easy to reach out. We also know that some people try using alcohol or other non-prescription drugs as a way of hiding or coping with stress. That NEVER helps and actually makes things a lot worse.

So it’s important to do what we can to change the conversation, to let everyone know it’s a really good thing to Change to Chill. We want to make it okay to talk about these topics, to work together to figure out safe, effective, healthy ways to deal with them, and to make sure we have each other’s backs when things get tough.


Ways to Address Stigma

Be smart.

  • Read what’s here on Change to Chill; learn about meditation, Mental Remix and other strategies for dealing with stress.
  • Educate yourself about mental health and wellness.

Be a myth buster.

  • There are people who think that stress is related to being weak, a lack of character or poor upbringing. Learn what you can about the truth (again, lots of good content right here!) and be willing to share your knowledge with others.
  • Avoid using words like “crazy,” “nuts” or “psycho.” These words promote the idea that people with lots of stress or other mental health conditions are different and weird.
  • If you see someone being stigmatized, say something supportive and positive that reminds people that we’re all human and we all have struggles and challenges.

Be compassionate.

  • If you see someone who is having a hard time, ask how they are doing, let them know you’re there to help if they need it, be a friend.
  • See the person, not the problem. Remember that what you or someone else is experiencing right now is just this one point in time, not the whole story.
  • Don’t trivialize someone’s problems; instead say something like, “I’m sorry to hear that, it must be a difficult time. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Be the change.

  • Try all of the Change to Chill activities and find the ones that work best for you.

Take the Chiller Challenge and send a positive message about the importance of reducing stress and promoting mental health and wellness.