Stigma in Mental Health

by: Natalie Guenette, M.A.

Stigma is a negative judgment and stereotype that brings people to feel ashamed, dismissed and dehumanized. People can be stigmatized by family, friends, colleagues, in social media, and sometimes even by health professionals. It changes how people see and feel about themselves, but also how other people see them. People living with mental health and substance use issues can be profoundly affected by stigma. They can isolate themselves for fear of being judged, which can bring them to have low peer support. It can prevent people from disclosing a mental health diagnosis and increase suicide risk.

Stigma is one of the greatest barriers to help-seeking and treatment, which can delay diagnoses and treatment options for people affected by stigma, however, there are ways to change this.

  1. Educate yourself and others around you by asking questions and doing research: you can visit for informative resources;
  2. Be mindful of the language you use to talk about mental health and substance use (i.e. non-judgmental, inclusive and respectful language);
  3. Be aware of your attitudes and opinions: upbringing and society can influence your views on mental health and substance use; and
  4. Speak up when you hear or see something that is stigmatizing: people do not always realize the impact they have on others and it is sometimes a question of not knowing all the facts about certain topics.

Clinicians at CFIR provide evidence-based treatments to individuals from an array of backgrounds based on their needs and personal differences. We continue to stay informed about leading-edge research related to the presenting issues of the clients who come to our offices.

Natalie Guenette, M.A., is a counsellor at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Ottawa. She employs treatments that include aspects from Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy, Mindfulness-based Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and Psychodynamic Theory, and she has an interest in working with adults experiencing a diversity of psychological and relationship issues. Natalie is currently completing a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University. At CFIR, she is under the supervision of Dr. Karine Côté, C.Psych.


Canadian Mental Health Association. (n.d.). Stigma and Discrimination. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Nov. 2019].

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (n.d.). Addressing Stigma. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Nov. 2019].

Knaak, S., Mantler, E., & Szeto, A. (2017). Mental illness-related stigma in healthcare: Barriers to access and care and evidence-based solutions. Healthcare management forum, 30(2), 111–116. doi:10.1177/0840470416679413

Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2019). Stigma and Discrimination. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Nov. 2019].