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Mental Health Stigma: Statistics and Definition.

“The single most important barrier to overcome in the community is the stigma and associated discrimination towards persons suffering from mental and behavioral disorders.”

The World Health Organisation

The word stigma originated in Greece to brand criminals or slaves. In some societies, individuals with mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were feared, tortured, or treated as demons. From these ancient perspectives, individuals with mental illness today suffer from stigmas, meaning discriminatory attitudes.

What does stigma mean when it comes to mental health? Unfortunately, myths, misunderstanding, ignorance, negative attitudes can result in stigma for people living with mental health conditions, which may be treated as dangerous, different, or as if they are somehow less than other people. The stigma is not true or accurate, but it hurts.

Overland Iop| #1 Intensive Outpatient Programs | Los Angeles Ca Mental Health You Are Not Along

Mental Health Stigma: Defenition

A stigma is a negative and often unfair social attitude attached to a person or group, often placing shame on them for a perceived deficiency or difference in their existence. Stigma is common. Unfortunately, they can be difficult to dismantle and overcome once they become established over many years. Stigma can be applied to those who live a certain way, have certain cultural beliefs, make lifestyle choices, or to people with health conditions, such as mental illnesses.

Some of the harmful effects of stigma can include:

  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment
  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others
  • Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
  • Reluctance to seek help or treatment
  • Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover mental illness treatment
  • The belief that it is impossible to succeed with certain challenges or that situation cannot be improveed
Overland Iop| #1 Intensive Outpatient Programs | Los Angeles Ca Mental Health Matters

Mental Health Stigma: Statistics

Millions of people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness. These numbers provided in this article are a powerful tool for raising public awareness and advocating for better health care. The National Alliance of Mental Illness delivers the infographic for this article.

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
  • 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 

You Are Not Alone

  • 20.6% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2019 (51.5 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults.
  • 5.2% of U.S. adults experienced serious mental illness in 2019 (13.1 million people). This represents 1 in 20 adults.
  • 16.5% of U.S. youth aged 6-17 experienced a mental health disorder in 2016 (7.7 million people)
  • 3.8% of U.S. adults experienced a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness in 2019 (9.5 million people)
  • Annual prevalence of mental illness among U.S. adults, by demographic group:
    • Non-Hispanic Asian: 14.4%
    • Non-Hispanic white: 22.2%
    • Non-Hispanic black or African-American: 17.3%
    • Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native: 18.7%
    • Non-Hispanic mixed/multiracial: 31.7%
    • Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 16.6%
    • Hispanic or Latino: 18.0%
    • Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual: 44.1%
  • Annual prevalence among U.S. adults, by condition:
    • Major Depressive Episode: 7.8% (19.4 million people)
    • Schizophrenia: <1% (estimated 1.5 million people)
    • Bipolar Disorder: 2.8% (estimated 7 million people)
    • Anxiety Disorders: 19.1% (estimated 48 million people)
    • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 3.6% (estimated 9 million people)
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 1.2% (estimated 3 million people)
    • Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.4% (estimated 3.5 million people)

Mental Health Care Matters

  • 44.8% of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2019  
  • 65.5% of U.S. adults with serious mental illness received treatment in 2019  
  • 50.6% of U.S. youth aged 6-17 with a mental health disorder received treatment in 2016  
  • The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years
  • Annual treatment rates among U.S. adults with any mental illness, by demographic group:
    • Male: 36.8%
    • Female: 49.7%
    • Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual: 49.2%
    • Non-Hispanic Asian: 23.3%
    • Non-Hispanic white: 50.3%
    • Non-Hispanic black or African-American: 32.9%
    • Non-Hispanic mixed/multiracial: 43.0%
    • Hispanic or Latino: 33.9%
  • 10.9% of U.S. adults with mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2019
  • 11.9% of U.S. adults with serious mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2019
  • 55% of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist

The Ripple Effect Of Mental Illness


  • People with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. People with serious mental illness are nearly twice as likely to develop these conditions.
  • 18.4% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance use disorder in 2019 (9.5 million individuals)
  • The rate of unemployment is higher among U.S. adults who have mental illness (5.8%) compared to those who do not (3.6%)
  • High school students with significant symptoms of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers
  • Students aged 6-17 with mental, emotional or behavioral concerns are 3x more likely to repeat a grade.


  • At least 8.4 million people in the U.S. provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue
  • Caregivers of adults with mental or emotional health issues spend an average of 32 hours per week providing unpaid care


  • Mental illness and substance use disorders are involved in 1 out of every 8 emergency department visits by a U.S. adult (estimated 12 million visits)
  • Mood disorders are the most common cause of hospitalization for all people in the U.S. under age 45 (after excluding hospitalization relating to pregnancy and birth)
  • Across the U.S. economy, serious mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year
  • 20.5% of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. have a serious mental health condition
  • 37% of adults incarcerated in the state and federal prison system have a diagnosed mental illness
  • 70.4% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosed mental illness
  • 41% of Veteran’s Health Administration patients have a diagnosed mental illness or substance use disorder


  • Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year 
  • Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide
Overland Iop| #1 Intensive Outpatient Programs | Los Angeles Ca Mental Health Ripple Effect

It’s Okay To Talk About Suicide

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the U.S.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35% since 1999
  • 46% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition
  • 90% of people who die by suicide had shown symptoms of a mental health condition, according to interviews with family, friends and medical professionals (also known as psychological autopsy)
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth
  • 78% of people who die by suicide are male
  • Transgender adults are nearly 12x more likely to attempt suicide than the general population
  • Annual prevalence of serious thoughts of suicide, by U.S. demographic group:
    • 4.8% of all adults
    • 11.8% of young adults aged 18-25
    • 18.8% of high school students
    • 46.8% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately. If you are searching for treatment

Mental Illness And The Criminal Justice System


  • About 2 million times each year, people with serious mental illness are booked into jails.
  • About 2 in 5 people who are incarcerated have a history of mental illness (37% in state and federal prisons and 44% held in local jails).
  • 66% of women in prison reported having a history of mental illness, almost twice the percentage of men in prison.
  • Nearly one in four people shot and killed by police officers between 2015 and 2020 had a mental health condition.
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for people held in local jails.
  • An estimated 4,000 people with serious mental illness are held in solitary confinement inside U.S. prisons.


  • 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health condition.
  • Youth in detention are 10 times more likely to suffer from psychosis than youth in the community.
  • About 50,000 veterans are held in local jails — 55% report experiencing a mental illness.
  • Among incarcerated people with a mental health condition, non-white individuals are more likely to go to solitary confinement, be injured, and stay longer in jail.


  • About 3 in 5 people (63%) with a history of mental illness do not receive mental health treatment while incarcerated in state and federal prisons.
  • Less than half of people (45%) with a history of mental illness receive mental health treatment while held in local jails.
  • People who have healthcare coverage upon release from incarceration are more likely to engage in services that reduce recidivism.

Mental Health Stigma: Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigma

Most people who live with mental illness have, at some point, been blamed for their condition. They might have been called names, or their symptoms might have been referred to in offensive ways. They have been illegally discriminated against, with no justice. This is the power that stigma holds. Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need because they are embarrassed. For people who already carry such a heavy burden of the illness itself, stigma is an unacceptable addition to their pain. And while stigma has reduced in recent years, the pace of progress has not been quick enough.

The mental health community needs to raise its voices against stigma. Every day, in every possible way, we need to stand up against stigma. If you’re not sure how below, we provide several ways

Overland Iop| #1 Intensive Outpatient Programs | Los Angeles Ca Mental Health Suicide

How do you fight stigma?

1. Get the mental health treatment you need

Try not to let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness stop you from getting help. Many people with mental illness want to isolate themselves from the world. Do not define yourself by your illness as other people might. For example, instead of saying ‘I’m schizophrenic,‘ say ‘I have schizophrenia’. There is a huge difference.

2. Talk Openly About Mental Health

Mental illness touches many lives and is still considered by some to be something to hide. By being brave and sharing your story, you encourage others to learn about and accept the mental health conditions of their loved ones and peers.

3. Educate Yourself And Others About Mental Health

Challenge others respectfully when they propagate stereotypes and misconceptions.

4. Be Conscious Of Language

Certain words are already considered to be taboo and disrespectful, but others like “crazy,” and “psycho” are still commonly used. By mediating our vocabulary we can reduce the stigma and negative connotations attached to mental health.

5. Encourage Equality Between Physical And Mental Illness

By speaking of mental illness in the same terms as physical illnesses, rather than as moral failings, we encourage others to take mental illness more seriously and compassionately.

6. Show Compassion For Those With Mental Illness

Loving and respecting people means having a desire to learn more about who they are, what their life is like, and where they have come from.

7. Let The Media Know When They’re Being Stigmatizing

Speak out against those who deflect real social issues in favor of simplified explanations of nuanced problems, especially when they rely on people living with mental illness as scapegoats.


Overland Iop| #1 Intensive Outpatient Programs | Los Angeles Ca Mental Health and Criminal Justice

Weather in Los Angeles, California

At Overland Intensive Outpatient, our philosophy is to help treat mental health by uncovering the underlying causes and addressing the co-occurring disorders which could drive the individual to relapse. We understand that every person who enters our doors comes with unique needs and goals. Our experienced clinicians will work one-on-one with clients to develop a comprehensive treatment plan using evidence-based methods. Overland Intensive Outpatient is ready to provide both in-person and virtual care (telehealth services) to expand access to essential health services and meet the health needs of our patients. If you need FREE help please contact the National Helpline about mental and/or substance use disorders, prevention, treatment, and recovery in English and Spanish.

Published: December 23, 2021

Last Updated: October 21, 2021


Natalia Golenkova

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