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

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
We are known throughout our neighborhood as a "clean/sober" family whom both parents are in long term recovery, sustained remission. We openly talk about our lived experiences and struggles as well as healthy coping mechanisms with ALL the neighborhood kids, no matter what age. We don't hide it and we help the neighborhood kids understand that it isnt something you have to be ashamed of. ALL the kids know that they come over or talk anytime, and that this is a SAFE place. Some kids have even opened up about the addictions plaguing their own parents. We purposely offer a safe, fun, wholesome environment to model what a healthy, happy family model looks like, in recovery. It is possible. We hope it continues throughout the lives of these kids. Clean/sober 7 years and 15 years as parents. Let's talk about it, cause the struggle is REAL.
Springfield Family
Unconditional Love, listening, compassion, empathy, and loyalty. Talking to community.
Sarah Simoneau
My office is a judgment free zone for LGBTQ people and others who are marginalized. My practice is based in social justice. I have lived experience with mental health issues and am in long-term recovery. I have a life I could never have imagined when I was actively drinking and using drugs. I offer unconditional support as you claim your truth as only you know it and everyone's story is meaningful.
Robin Slavin, LMHC
I bring my own child to therapy to work through anxiety. I bring out “therapy” pet bunny into classrooms and explain how beneficial it is to talk to a therapist no matter what challenges you are facing.
I stand up to stigma by having honest conversations and providing information to others who do not understand or have been misinformed about Mental illness .
Michele Dihlmann
I am a mental health patient. I do not judge a person, ever.
Tara Brooks
By providing comprehensive and humanistic medical care to patients who suffer from severe mental illness.
I'm a recovering addict clean since 9/23/17 with the help of your hub program I stand up to stigma every day in many different ways a
Speaking openly about my personal experience. Being willing to ask for help when I need it and supporting others so they can learn to do the same. Practicing active listening. Taking passive suicidal ideation seriously. Doing research. Supporting my friends (and sometimes their families) who struggle with mental health issues - without judgment. Captain of a team for Out of the Darkness, a walk to raise funds for suicide prevention.
try to let people who need more understanding of addiction that there is a big problem today with this and it's not all about the person wanting to just feel high or good all the time. Addiction needs help and different types of treatment
I am open honest about my dual diagnosis. I am kind to everyone.
Shiela Sargent
My educating others, supporting those with SUD or in recovery and treating everyone as equals.
Stephanie Thompson
I have been battling my mental health since I was about 15, over the years it has effected me in all areas of my life because I was scared to be shamed, or judged by people for asking for help so I numbed myself with drugs to not feel. Today everything I have done to overcome my fears has turned around and took a huge chunk of my life away because of my mental health, my drug addiction I have lost my 3 children just recently because I have been struggling with anxiety, mental health issues DCF used every thing I have done to better myself and focused on my mental health instead, and usded that to destroy my life. My babies are now going threw everything I worked so hard for them not to ever have to feel, now are being traumatized being ripped away from their mother, due to my poor choices, of being scared to ask for help. I don't understand our society today and the way they think they were told people not to have children to grow up without parents and not be put through dramatic situations but they're ripping away from parents because of their mental health issues when I never wanted them to ever have to feel what I felt growing up without parents and do you think that my poor children are going to grow up now their own mental.
Beth Gay
By being understanding and compassionate towards those who are suffering.
I stand up to stigma by supporting my son with his recovery and being proud of all of his accomplishment!
Wanda Kirker
By listening, learning, and not jumping to conclusions about people. Everybody has a story.
Georgia King
By being an advocate and providing unconditional positive regard.
Hilary Lesniak
By becoming an RN, by speaking about mental health, by working on my own mental health, by reading the literature about mental health and staying current with various treatment modalities, by using evidence-based practice. By using my HANDS and FEET to affect change, not just my words.
Sarah-Cait Downing Robles
By making my work my life, and showing up everyday to support our most vulnerable community members with compassion and curiosity, rather than judgment and stigma.
Rhianna Kendrick
By engaging with those who struggle with addictions and encouraging participation in Support Groups.
Rev. David Tipple
Tell my story in the community, state and to legislature. Facilitate groups, coach my peers and take part in state and community advocacy groups and orgs.
Nancy Bassett
I have clinical depression and I have struggled with abuse. I will stand up by publicly stating how this a problem
I personally suffer from mental illness
Supporting organizations like Turning Point, our local police and town and state governments efforts
I treat all of my patients with respect.
Ellen Woodward
By recognizing, listening and reacting.
Jaime & Heather Bernier
Reminding people that mental health problems are a medical issue and that people are not mentally ill, they have a mental illness.
By relating to all in a respectful manner, helping people to feel better about themselves and to realize that they are vital to making this world a better place. I will also stand up for anyone being bullied or treated disrespectfully by confronting the uninformed or close minded individual.
Liz K. O'Neill
I try to correct and educate people when they use inappropriate terms when talking. For example teens and adults use words such as gender or mental health terms as slang that are inappropriate and I do not hesitate to let them know it is not acceptable to use them.
I work with Substance Abuse individuals and am an alcoholic myself
Mark Jachym
To treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of labels, diagnoses, or things people say.
Daniel Lang
By talking about these illnesses in an appropriate way with those who are in my path of daily living.
Michael Kiey
Being compassionate and understanding to those with these illness, but mainly by talking to my High School freshman daughter about it. She now has a deeply rooted compassion to help educate her peers to "Stand Up to Stigma".
Andrew Walker
Recognizing with empathy and compassion that being a whole person, a challenge for all, is more painstaking when one is struggling to cope with the realities of trauma, grief, medical. psychological/mental health conditions, and/or disability. The myth of perfection and success - a life without pain or failure, is dominant in our culture and is dehumanizing to all of us. I stand up to stigma by striving to see the essence and depth of our individual and shared humanity - and deeply valuing the courage of those who know vulnerability, and work to relate to such, as a source of creativity, intimacy, and true strength.
Jilisa Snyder, Ph.D, CRC
I speak out openly that there is no shame in being ill, physically or emotionally or mentally. We need to understand we all have issues that we need to address to remain healthy throughout the different stages of our lives. We need to stand up and be supportive of everyone as they work through whatever they are wrestling with as they go through their life.
Howard Leatherman
By teaching from the heart; sharing from the heart; embodying and open and accepting mindset to all human beings that I know and don't know; understanding the shared universality of emotional suffering is what brings closeness and connection; understanding that the spiral of shame and secrecy keep us sick; understanding that emotional/mental/psychological health is just as important as physical and spiritual health; leading by example.
Amanda Aster
Great Pledge! I will post these signs in our waiting room and public areas at work and encourage the other counselors in our building to see how we can stand up as well collaboratively, especially using the creative arts as a modality for change.
Ben Fox
I have three mental illnesses and have struggled greatly. I do my best to help others and share my opinions and story to let others know that they are not alone and that we are not less than people who do not have mental illness.
By speaking up about it!
I teach my psychology students to avoid using language that minimizes mental illness and perpetuates stigma.
Richard Szymanski
I stand up to stigma by talking openly and frankly with my support system
I work in a high needs region and support the needs of three overly busy offices in the PA area. I work daily to educate patient that the brain and nervous system is no different that then heart and lungs. The deserve the same attention and care. Mental illness is no different than hypertension or diabetes. We need to provide care and support our patients and end the stigma of mental heath.
Tina Matthews Hayes, MSN, DNPs, CRNP-BC
Our Gallery features the work of dedicated artists in the surrealist and outsider art category who are often folks who suffer from mental illness. On these walls, there is no labeling.

Both we and our family members and our children have suffered through the generations with mental illness, and we would like to see our children and grandchildren fulfill their dreams and offer their abundant talents and intelligences to the community in appropriate ways and settings. This is a struggle but we persevere. We believe this is possible.
Suzanne Corsano
I am doing a project on awareness of mental health issues.
Kate Wilkinson
By admitting that I struggle with mental illness to others, and by admitting to myself that that doesn't mean I'm weak.
Acknowledging and respecting the pain and real effects of mental illness.
Katharine Robinson
Being a supportive friend, family member, and clinician.
J. Elliott Robinson
By talking opening about it
Julie Klompas
I share our story. To the best of my ability, I try to validate those who share theirs.
I hear people call me ugly names cause of mental illness I tell them to look up the meaning of stigma then every mental illness so they can be educated on mental illness
Faith Kight
Educate people
We don't consider hair color or eye color a character flaw. Why then should someone's neurochemistry be any different? When I tore the ligaments in my knee, I realized there are some things I can't always fix on my own. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness - it's a sign of maturity and strength.
Jeff Bower
Sharing my experience with maintaining mental health with friends , family and community, and in my work as a Legislator
Mike Mrowicki
I won't hesitate to tell my family's story. This amazingly gives others the freedom to unburden themselves by telling their story.

More and more of us find we are going through the same experiences. There is strength in numbers. More than a few times I've been thanked for simply stating truths--not in the halls that address these conditions behind closed doors, but in social and business situations.

This isn't a subject of shame. It's a subject of reality to be addressed fully and in the open.

Margaret Walker
I teach articles about mental health concerns in my college writing courses, and make sure our students know of the resources available to them if they need support. I teach literature by authors with psychological conditions to raise awareness, dispel myths about the romantic notions of depression and suicide, and as a way of showing others that writing is a powerful form of therapy.
Joann Deiudicibus
I am one of those you speak about who has mental illness & a history of addiction. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder & major depressive disorder & have battled opiate addiction. I am standing up to the stigma by being open about my mental illness & addiction history instead of remaining silent & just being a wallflower. I have experienced a lot of judgment from those who are uneducated on mental illness & don't realize you can't just stop being depressed when you want & the same thing goes with addiction. After years off struggling with both, I am now receiving treatment for both & while I'm not exactly where I want to be with my depression as I'm having a hard time trying to find a medication that will help me, I'm never going to stop trying to find happiness & peace of mind, literally. Lol.
Laura Sparrow
I stand up to the stigma by offering educational materials and provide honest answers to questions
I remind others, such as in the workplace, that mental illness is a sickness the same as any physical ailment. It can be treated, is not their fault and we would not judge a patient who had a physical disability.
Laura M. Beelman
Will be there for anyone that has this problem because I'm going through it everyday of my life & no one understands what it is & means they just say it will be ok don't worry about it
I fight! My life is worth living happily!
I attend support groups. It helps me educate family, friends and any one else that asks about my family member. It has allowed me to feel more comfortable to talk about addiction. It helps me cope every single day.
Deb H.
I will keep reminding myself that mental illness like any other medical illness is something that happens to a person as opposed to something a person brings onto themselves.
Christine Hazzard
I educate children about the dangers of substance abuse but in doing so, I point out that celebrities like Robin Williams and others are victims and that through the redeeming work of the arts he was rehabilitated at times. However, when he wasn't working his craft he suffered depression and drug abuse making his life a tragedy that no one should have to live.
Steve Piscitello
I stand up to stigma by actively listening and responding without judgment.
Furthering others of the understanding of mental illness - that it's a real disease. Being there for others with ptsd and addiction.
Katlyn Lemay
As an employee at Meadows School at the Retreat I stand up to stigma by treating the students here with the same respect, compassion and love that I've treated all students with whom I've worked in public and private schools.
Margaret H.
I stand up to stigma by educating my friends and colleagues in the Army about suicide prevention and mental health issues.
Lauren Mabie
I talk openly about my own experiences with depression and anxiety, about how counseling and medication can help.
Mike Reilly
Calling out those who use 'mental case' as a derogatory term for those they don't like.
Meg Barr
I tell people how I feel when they ask me. I don't say "good" if I'm feeling depressed. I say that I'm down or straight out depressed. I'm sick of hiding behind a mask. Because of stigma, I keep loosing friends just because I'm open like that but I really don't care.
Sarah Mace
As a staff member of the Retreat who works in the admission dept. I stand up to stigma everyday. I see first hand how hard it can be to asked for help or admit you need help. I feel everyone should be able to rec'd treatment with out the fear of judgment.
Tyler D
I stand up to stigma by acknowledging and accepting my own challenges and then speaking openly about them. It is something I am still learning to do, but I am determined to be a public self-advocate. I look at my nieces and nephews and think of my possible future children and know that I cannot let them live in a world where they could be shamed for medical conditions that aren't their fault...or where they could pick up the habit of shaming others for such things. I have -- and we all have -- a social responsibility to address this problem right now, and the most effective way to do it is by raising our hands and voices to say, "I have my problems, but they don't make me a lesser person and I still demand your full respect." I stand up to stigma by being bold and challenging others with mental health conditions to do the same.
J. Ashley Odell
I try to educate. The stigma is often the result of ignorance.
Patricia Camp
As a previous patient of the brattleboro retreat and someone in recovery from self-harm and an eating disorder, I pledge to be open about my struggles and help educate the public that mental illness comes in many backgrounds.
Alicia Gusan
Education - a la TED Talk by Temple Gardin on Autism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn_9f5x0f1Q
TED offers so many opportunities for folks to share stories from their individual perspectives. There are many more. This is just one I watched over the weekend.
Jessica Gelter
I share my personal struggle with Mental Illness.
Paula Sperry
I am not afraid to talk about emotional wellbeing with anyone. I also am very "out" about seeing a counselor for my own emotional wellbeing.
Jodi Clark
You get over it after a while. Worse than the STIGMA within society is the STIGMA from Mental Health providers. Far worse because you have to depend on these people
I always stop stigma when I hear it by telling people the facts
Thomas V. Flood
Danielle Look
I'm always open and willing to share my own struggles with bipolar disorder.
Rebecca Sorenson
I raise awareness whenever I can- I educate others via conversations and have worked in mental health for some 27 years as a manager - it is my career choice and I am a strong patient advocate .
Nancy Marhefka
I will do my best to educate and advocate for and to as many people as I can.
Kelly Kozik
I try to remind myself everyday that we are all Gods children and we all have faults. Some are more obvious than others.
John Roske RN
By being well, proving by my wellness that people can and do get better.
Linda Page
I work at the Retreat, and believe that everyone should be treated with respect and kindness.
Kelli Lee-Allen
Openly discuss my own struggles with anxiety and depression.
Connie White
I live w/ bi-polar disorder
I spent a few months at the Retreat. I have been sober 3 years now because of the help I received there.
I have worked my whole adult life to accept the struggles of myself and my family members with mental illness and have tried to transfer that knowledge to my dealings with anyone and everyone I come upon in life - always working to keep an open heart.
Jess Weitz
I strive to listen, first and foremost. As someone who works at the Retreat, I feel that I can also participate in the bigger conversation by sharing what I know about mental health and addiction treatment and the progress and advancements being made in clinical research, education and advocacy.
Jill Terrell-Ouazzani
By voicing my opinion on mental health and allowing others to know it is not a shameful matter to ask for help!
Margot Laimbeer
I try to treat mental illness as any other medical condition, without judgment.
Robert Szpila