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United Against Stigma

United Against Stigma

One of the biggest barriers to mental healthcare is the stigma associated with mental health conditions.1 The stigma attached to mental health conditions is universal, pervading across cultures and contexts across the globe.2
1 in 8

people live with a mental health disorder globally3


of health research globally focuses on mental health3


of health budgets on average go to mental health3

Despite the prevalence of mental health disorders, there are many misconceptions and much misinformation, which results in widespread stigma. 

People living with mental health discorders can experience stigma from families, neighbours, and healthcare professionals themselves. In some cases, they can internalise negative messages and stereotypes and apply them to themselves, known as self-stigma.4


Stigma leads to social isolation and discrimnation, which impacts a person's ability to earn an income, gain acceess to quality care, be part of their community, and recover from their mental health disorder.3

In a study by the Lancet, 80% of respondents agreed that stigma and discrimination can be worse than the impact of the mental health disorder itself.4

Rather than risk potential discrimination, many people with mental health disorders choose to go through it alone. Ultimately, stigma and discriminatory attitudes and behaviours can negatively impact individuals with mental health disorders and hinder their recovery.5

Understanding public stigma

Public stigma is defined here as “the way in which people in a given community or society view and act towards people with mental health disorders.”4


A common way of understanding public stigma is to identify three related components: knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours. The knowledge component usually refers to a lack of detailed knowledge in society about mental health disorders, but can also arise due to misinformation.4


Stigmatising attitudes refer to negative emotional reactions towards people with mental health disorders.4


Behaviour refers to the rejection and social exclusion of people with mental health disorders by discrimination, which can cause harm by being anticipated as well as being experienced.4


These negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviours can create and reinforce misconceptions about the prevalence, process, and causes of mental health disorders. Such misconceptions can include beliefs about the dangerousness or incompetence of people with mental health disorders, or the belief that these disorders cannot be treated.4

The impact of stigma and discrimination

Stigma related to mental health disorders is multifaceted with a multitude of consequences that are often underestimated.4


The Lancet Commission on Stigma and Mental Health divides the impact of stigma into four domains: personal impacts, structural impacts, impact on health and social care, and social and economic impacts. Globally, people living with mental health disorders commonly experience at least some of the following restrictions:4

Personal impacts 
  • Social isolation and loneliness
  • Self-stigma
  • Reduced quality of life
Structural impacts 
  • Legal provisions
  • Human rights
  • Implementation of psychosocial interventions
Healthcare and social care effects
  • Limited access to healthcare
  • Delayed recovery
Social and economic impact
  • Employment
  • Voting rights
  • Property ownership

Addressing stigma 

Stigma related to mental health disorders can be alleviated through disease awareness campaigns.


Research shows that knowing or having contact with someone with a mental health disorder is one of the best ways to reduce stigma.2 A 2016 review of research on addressing stigma concluded that efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination can work at the personal and societal levels.6





Actively listening to people with lived experience of mental health disorders is imperative to understanding the impact of the disorders and their associated stigma. Anti-stigma interventions– particularly social contact strategies through which people with lived experience help to shift attitudes and actions – can also reduce stigma and discrimination in the community.3


Stigma can also be reduced by improving public mental health literacy.7 Global awareness-raising campaigns, such as World Mental Health Day and Brain Awareness Week, are opportunities to normalise conversations about mental health disorders and overturn misconceptions and prejudices.




The importance of using non-stigmatising language

Stigmatising language is a barrier to treatment for people living with mental health disorders.1


Stigmatising language reflects and reinforces negative attitudes and behaviour toward people living with mental health disorders.8 Having open and respectful conversations with people living with mental health disorders is the first step to overturning harmful discourse.


The Lancet Commission on Ending Stigma and Discrimination in Mental Health recommends using person-first language when speaking to or about a person living with a mental health disorder. Using person-first language puts the individual at the centre, not their disorder.4


To continue to raise awareness about mental health disorders and fight stigma, we ask:


Involve people with lived experience in stigma reduction efforts

No one understands the impact of brain disorders better than the people affected by them. People with lived experience should be empowered and supported to play active roles in disease awareness campaigns and stigma reduction efforts.


Lead the conversation on mental health with non-stigmatising language

Fighting stigma surrounding mental health disorders starts with open and honest conversations. When speaking to or about someone living with a mental health disorder, lead with a person-first language. 

Lundbeck’s commitment

As a leader in brain health, Lundbeck will continue to support mental health awareness and education efforts to eradicate stigma and enable policy and societal change.


At Lundbeck, we work to mobilise efforts to eliminate stigma and normalise discussions about brain health and its associated disorders. These include global awareness-raising campaigns on brain health promotion and stigma reduction, such as Brain Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day, as well as in-depth educational campaigns targeted at policymakers, healthcare professionals, and the public in general.


At Lundbeck, we are wholly committed to restoring brain health and supporting people impacted by brain disorders. Our business activities, advocacy community engagement, and interactions with policymakers and non-governmental organizations are guided by clarity of purpose: we are tirelessly dedicated to restoring brain health, so every person can be their best. 

  1. Knaak S, Mantler E, Szeto A. Mental illness-related stigma in healthcare: Barriers to access and care and evidence-based solutions. 2017. Available at:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28929889/ [Accessed September 2023]
  2. Corrigan PW, Watson AC. World Psychiatry. 2002; vol1,1:16-20.
  3. World Health Organization. World mental health report: transforming mental health for all. 2022. Available at: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240049338 [Accessed September 2023]
  4. Thornicroft, G., et.al, Lancet. 2022;400(10361):1438-1480.
  5. Stigma and Discrimination. Mental Health Foundation. 2021. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/stigma-and-discrimination [Accessed September 2023]
  6. American Psychiatric Association. Stigma, Prejudice and Discrimination Against People with Mental Illness. 2020. Available at: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/stigma-and-discrimination [Accessed September 2023]
  7. Fleary S.A, et al. Health Lit Res Pract. 2022 Oct; 6(4): e270–e279
  8. Words Matter. Mental Health Europe 2018. www.mhe-sme.org/infographicwordsmatter/ [Accessed September 2023]

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UK-NOTPR-1609 | September 2023