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What is mental illness stigma and why does it hurt?

People who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses (i.e., depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders) often live nearly in silence about their illnesses. 
 
They are afraid to talk to other people about their mental illnesses simply because they may be avoided or even worse, the subject of discriminatory practices.  People are often perceived and treated differently if they have mental illnesses and are not afforded similar opportunities in life simply because of these mental illnesses.  For instance, some employers will not hire people if they have knowledge about the applicants' mental illnesses, or landlords may not provide housing privileges to people due to their mental illnesses.  Others may avoid any contact with people if they perceive mental illness is behind a person's behaviour (i.e., talking to oneself, erratic behaviour, and delusional speech). 
 
Ultimately, some people find it difficult to maintain a positive self image when faced with the challenges and it hurts. The stigma of mental illness involves both a private (self thinking) component and a public component. To learn more about stigma, visit the Mental Health Commission of Canada's information on the issue.