Disgrace. Shame. Mistrust. These are words that go hand in hand with stigma. And even though scientific research has shown otherwise, mental illness and addiction are still seen by many through a distorted lens as forms of indulgence, or weakness, or flaws in a person's character

Together we can reduce stigma and create positive change.

Among the many heartbreaking outcomes of stigma are silence and isolation. The result is that people in great pain remain quiet for fear of being  judged. As their isolation grows, the people in their lives become less willing to ask what's wrong.

The cycle perpetuates itself mainly because it prevents people from doing the one thing that will help the most: seek treatment.

Mental illness and addiction are real medical illnesses, just like heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.

Goals of the Stand Up to Stigma Campaign

The goals of the Stand Up to Stigma public awareness campaign are to:

  • Educate the public about the realities of mental health problems and addiction.
  • Offer steps we can all take to help reduce stigma.
  • Encourage people who need help to seek it without shame or fear.
  • Help increase empathy and understanding in our communities.
Facts about Mental Illness and Addiction

Don't people with mental health problems tend to be violent?
People will mental health problems are no more likely to act violently than anyone else in society. Only 3-5 percent of all violent acts can be attributed to people living with a serious mental illness. On the flip side, people with severe mental illness are more than 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.

Isn't mental illness fairly rare?
Actually, it's fairly common. According to government statistics, one in five adults experiences mental illness, and about one in ten young people experiences a period of major depression (mentalhealth.gov, 2014).

Are psychiatric disorders really "true" medical illnesses like diabetes and heart disease?
They are. Psychiatric illnesses are the result of problems with the functioning of the brain. These problems often have genetic, environmental and biological causes. And they can be treated effectively!

Can't people who are depressed just snap out of it if they try hard enough?
Depression has nothing to do with a person's character or willpower. It's the result of changes in the chemistry and function of the brain. Fortunately, medication and/or psychotherapy help most people recover from depression.

Do people really recover from mental illness?
Yes. With the proper treatment, most people who suffer from a mental illness recover and go on to lead productive, rewarding lives that include work, family, and community activities.


How You Can Stand Up to Stigma

Add your voice to help shift attitudes toward a more respectful, informed, and compassionate way of thinking about mental health and addiction.

Get the facts.
Stigmas about mental illness and addiction are often based on myths. Studies show that many people who experience these problems are productive members of society who can benefit from treatment.
Choose your words well.

Words matter.
Think about the terms you use to describe people who experience mental health problems or addictions. Never reduce people to a diagnosis. Engage in respectful dialogue with others who may use hurtful language.

Use your influence.
We’re all connected to one another. Be a voice for fairness and truth with your friends, family members, and the young
people in your life.

How to Increase Awareness and Understanding

Share how you help increase awareness and understanding of mental illness and addiction. And remember to:

  •     Be inclusive.
  •     Check your own attitudes.
  •     Practice empathy.
  •     Offer your support.
  •     Be positive.
  •     Share the truth.
  •     Challenge media stereotypes.

Mental illness and addiction are real medical illnesses, just like heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. We believe that through education, empathy, and encouragement, people with mental illness and addiction can get the help they need and stand as equals in our society.

How to Get Involved

Get involved.

Engage with the people in your life and your community. Consider joining a peer support group or campaign that provides a safe platform to talk about how mental illness and addiction stigmas have affected you or someone you care about.

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a range of peer-directed programs providing education and support.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. AA meetings are available almost everywhere.
  • Narcotics Anonymous offers peer support for individuals who have struggledwith addiction.
  • Nar-Anon Family Groups offer 12-step programs for families and friends of people who suffer from addiction.
  • Al-Anon Family Support Groups are peer-led groups that offer support and understanding to friends and family of problem drinkers.
  • ActiveMinds is a leading nonprofit organization that empowers students to speak openly about mental health in order to educate others and encourage help-seeking.


Vermont Department of Mental Health: Find mental health services in your area

U Matter U Can Get Help provides resources and information related to youth suicide prevention.

Mantherapy.org, an interactive online mental health campaign targeting working age men (25-54) that employs humor to cut through stigma and tackle issues including depression and anxiety.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800--273-8255

The Vermont Suicide Prevention Center is dedicated to ensuring that people of all ages have the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and resources to reduce the risk of suicide.

Veterans Resource Locator

Vermont 2-1-1 Get Connected. Get Answers.

Social Media:

Follow us in social media to see updates, photos, and videos related to the Stand Up to Stigma campaign and other initiatives aimed at raising awareness around mental health.

Take the Stand Up to Stigma Pledge

Join us in standing up to stigma!

Take the Pledge

How We Stand Up To Stigma

I firmly confront offensive, degrading remarks about my or other people's psychiatric illnesses, addictions, and/or emotional disturbances when I hear them. I offer my point of view, and then give the person who said something that shows they believe in the stigma against psychiatric illnesses a chance to reply.
Mette Karlsen
I've gotten my state representative involved and gone to court to help my daughter who has physical and mental issues against her bullies and to help her with her mental issues too. I will not wait till she hurts herself and doesn't come back from it so I'll do whatever it takes.
Remind health care providers and psychiatrist I’m not looking to get high. Please take me seriously, listen to me
, and please help me. I’m looking forward to learning more about fighting stigma.
joanne cardell
I stand up to stigma by listening carefully when a person tells me what they are experiencing. If what they say is confusing or frightening to me, I ask questions until I understand their experience as fully as possible rather than cutting-them-short. I resist the impulse to deny the validity of experiences that I don't understand or project my reality onto someone else's experience in order to feel more comfortable.
Airlie Rose
The only thing worse than suffering from addiction and depression is suffering alone. I hope to change the views and language used when talking about addiction and mental health by being open about my experiences. My brother struggled with addiction and died by suicide. I believe he kept his pain secret because he would have been judged and he felt that if he couldn't help himself he shouldn't burden us. I also believe if he was open about his addiction society would have viewed him as a junkie/loser despite knowing him as a regular guy who went to work clean shaven and kind. I hope these judgments are starting to change and that we can start trusting eachother when we are vulnerable and in need of help.
Laura White
Very vocal in re: to this subject and it’s consequences to mentally I’ll people
Shirley Britch
Seth Pichette
Many people treat me strangely when I have my beard and mustache grown out especially in warm weather because I'm a woman. I educate them and tell them that many women have facial hair but it has become a taboo and cause for shame so women don't dare grow the hair on their faces. You certainly can't get a job with facial hair and you have to spend your days dealing with people who don't know what to make of you. But if you have dark hair and light skin and no money for electrolysis your condemned to a life of stigma.
Robin Chaia Mide
I live with severe PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depression. I’ve been hospitalized twice and am a suicide attempt survivor. I have engaged in treatment for years and have learned to manage my symptoms. Currently, I have a job I love in human services, a beautiful family, and I am a recent college graduate. I stand up to stigma by sharing my story, challenging misconceptions, and not being ashamed of the painful path that’s gotten me to where I am today! Recovery is possible. I still have bad days, and I speak openly about them. The same as someone may tell a coworker “I had a fever yesterday”, I will say, “I needed a mental health day.” There is no shame in living with mental health challenges. And it really, truly can get better.
As a musician, I've been up front with people about my addiction issues. The legal drugs- alcohol and tobacco- did much more damage to me than anything else.
People need to know tha.
James Harvey
by realizing there's no shame in seeking help if you need it
Donna L. Wescom
- explain to anyone willing to listen that we NEED more mental health practitioners and services in this country (regardless of if they ask)
- try my best to support my friends when they are going through mental health problems that require intervention
- act with compassion when patients that need treatment come into the ER and need to be drawn
-vote for people and legislation that increases services for mental health.
Stephanie Roddy
I have ministered to addicts and mentally ill in a psych hospital. I grew to love many of them. I will always stand up for them in conversations where there is apparent bias or ignorance.
Liz ONeill
I am not sure how this whole thing shakes out. I have issues that may certainly be stigmatized. I would like info on how I may help in improving awareness of stigma.
Tom W Barton
I suffer with MDD, insomnia, anxiety, social anxiety, phobias, PTSD, pseudo-seizures, Gained over 70 lbs, poor health, and......that’s enough haha. For now! I stand up to stigma anytime I see bullying and/or misinformation regarding mental health. I post factual information without an attitude. I place emphasis on early intervention. Any way I can help others understand, or at least receive the correct facts...I want to do just that.
Jala Jenkins
I stand up to stigma by promoting awareness. Addiction is a disease and not a choice. Many times the underlying issue is an undiagnosed mental illness such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. We need to show compassion and stop shaming.
Tammy savoie
I'm a combat veteran with PTSD and an addict. I believe that I go against any type discrimination or prejudice. I myself continue to evolve as a humanitarian due to my own afflictions. People that scoff at us, do this because they lack understanding. And believe this, that God or circumstance can place us in the strangest of places. I never thought I'd be incarcerated or in any type of treatment Program. Yet, I have been arrested and now I'm in a treatment Center. I think that I'm breaking the stereotype of an addict; a recovering addict. Even though, I have lost everything: my family, my home, my purpose and a year ago, my will to live. Here I am. Struggling and hopefully striving to better myself. One day at time. One step and then another. If I got knocked down. I can get back up and try again. God is my Father. He's got me. No matter how many times I fall. He picks me back up and dusts off my clothes. I'm very clumsy physically and spiritually. He still loves me and welcomes me back. How can I lose with God as my Father? That's gives chills up my spine. It's probably the The Holy Spirit affirming that fact. God bless you all.
Dewayne Lee Gammill
Speaking openly and honestly to confront the myths with truth and to replace the shame with compassion.
Supporting each other in a positive way thru listening and sharing. Everyone has issues and with speaking out we open the doors to recovery and understanding.
I have created a FB page called Breaking the silence to help break the stigma of addiction.
Amanda Pratt
As a Veteran with anxiety and PTSD; as a Wife of a Veteran; as a Mother of a teenage daughter with anxiety, depression and gender identity issues; as a friend of someone with addiction, SI and attempts; as an Employee Assistance Program Coordinator continually briefing others on mental health issues and being being able to speak to someone confidentially; and as a Human Being letting anyone and everyone know it is okay to not be OK and that I am always available to talk or listen when needed.
Christine Robinson