Stereotyping in mental health


Stereotyping in mental health

Stereotyping in mental health

Stereotyping in mental health is a large and relevant topic. To stereotype is to prejudge someone as belonging to a certain type. A common and very real fear of many people seeking help is being prejudged or finding themselves stereotyped and having concerns about stigmatization. To be concerned about being put in a ‘pigeon-hole’, being labelled, being disregarded, being misunderstood, ashamed, embarrassed or even criticized can be tremendous hurdles people may face when coming to terms with a mental health problem and even on an ongoing basis. Stereotyping in mental health is a real problem and it needs to change.

The thought of being stereotyped from most peoples’ point of view is not a pleasant experience, especially if one comprehends such thoughts as negative in a variety of contexts and if it happens to lead to negative feelings and/or behaviours or attitudes towards people with a mental illness. Perhaps some people (other people that we know) fear the unknown and a quick response to even initial interaction with a person with a mental illness or disorder, may be to be put up a barrier of protection for themselves. Many people find that the majority of others do not actually enjoy talking about mental health. Perhaps part of it is the unknown.

Stereotyping in mental health

“I don’t wanna talk about mental health”

Just imagine facing a new situation that is not particularly well-known to yourself. I imagine for example, if I were to visit a prison cell, I too might be quick to label, stereotype, and/or not acknowledge or consider the reasons what may have lead the particular person/people to be in their own situation. The point is not right or wrong (laws etc.), good or bad, it is prejudging ALL people who are mentally ill, those who have defied or broken the law, those of different religions, cultures and so-on, all to be the same . Some people with a mental health problem are indeed dangerous relating to seriously harming or killing another person), but only a small percentage though. This figure is estimated at around 0.005%. Believing that people with a mental illness are dangerous is very detrimental to how society copes and relates to people who have a mental illness. Statistics will tell us for example that a person with schizophrenia is around 2000 times more likely to harm him/herself that somebody else (ARAFMI, 2000),

We often hear of isolated incidents that seem to feed the concept of stereotyping. For the high majority of people living with a mental health disorder or illness, this stereotype manner of thinking tends to regard them, and all others as being similar, the same, or that they should be avoided, shunned and so-forth, when in actual fact most are not dangerous. Many people with a mental illness or disorder actually fear OTHERS and are no more likely to hurt anyone else than anybody in the general population.

For many people, receiving a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder can seem like being branded with a label attached to themselves. A fear for such people is when others recognize this ‘label’ they may be quick to assume wrong assumptions such as s/he is dangerous. Stereotyping and stigmatization are enormous hurdles for people with a mental health problem. Much like most people who are deaf, disabled or the like, the majority of people with a psychiatric disability do NOT necessarily want to be treated any differently to anyone in the general population.


It is time to take a stand! It is time to speak up against stereotyping, discrimination and stigmatization. You are not a label!

Thanks for visiting Beyond My Label.


ARAFMI, (2000). Supporting people with psychiatric disabilities. ARAFMI Queensland Inc.

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