Stigma and discrimination

Stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion: it affects people‘s self-esteem, helps disrupt their family relationships and limits their ability to socialize and obtain housing and jobs. It hampers the prevention of mental health disorders, the promotion of mental well-being and the provision of effective treatment and care. It also contributes to the abuse of human rights.

Service users and carers have long battled stigma and discrimination. The lack of support for organizations of service users and carers and poor advocacy hinder the design and implementation of policies and activities sensitive to their needs and wishes.

In order to deliver the values and visions and in response to the challenges, the WHO European Mental Health Action Plan (2013) proposes a three-pronged, interdependent, indivisible and mutually-enforcing approach:

  • improve the mental well-being of the population and reduce the burden of mental disorders, with a special focus on vulnerable groups, exposure to determinants and risk behaviours;
  • respect the rights of people with mental health problems and offer equitable opportunities to attain the highest quality of life, addressing stigma and discrimination;
  • establish accessible, safe and effective services that meet people’s mental, physical and social needs and the expectations of people with mental health problems and their families.

In addition the Plan recognizes the challenges that stigma and discrimination can pose to people with mental health problems: ‘Many people with mental health problems choose not to engage or maintain contact with mental health services, due to stigma and discrimination. Negative treatment and care experiences are another factor contributing to failure to engage. Reforms need to achieve higher confidence in the safety and effectiveness of care. Mental health policies need to combine structural reform of services with a focus on quality, ensuring the delivery of safe, effective and acceptable treatments by a competent workforce.’

World Mental Health Day: Living with Schizophrenia

Mental health is everyone’s business, and if we succeed, everyone benefits; if we fail, everyone pays.

Schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people worldwide. Sadly, schizophrenia is still a condition powerfully associated with all that is wrong about people’s perception of mental illness: untreatable, dangerous and hopeless. Yet tackling the stigma of schizophrenia and changing attitudes and expectations will also positively affect the attitudes towards mental health problems as a whole.

On 10 October 20014, World Mental Health Day, WHO addressed the stigma and misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia and suggested the actions needed to ensure that people with schizophrenia can live a dignified and healthy life. 

WHO strongly believes that every person with a mental health problem, whatever the mental health problem, has a right to the same opportunities as everyone else in every aspect of their life.

The right of people to live a healthy life and receive mental health services according to individual needs and aspirations is central to the vision of the European Mental Health Action Plan that was endorsed by all 53 Member States of the European Region at the sixty-third session of the Regional Committee for Europe in September 2013.

There is still a long way to go in many countries, but the acceptance of the need for change is there. World Mental Health Day is a great opportunity for raising awareness, but the hard work has to continue, all year around.