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Mental Health and Stigma

Hear directly from Lucy about the impact of disability stigma and how we can all play our part in tackling it.

A woman wearing yellow and black stands in front of piles of wood.

Ending disability stigma and championing inclusive mental health

Mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability worldwide. People living with mental health illness and psychosocial disability face stigma, discrimination, and a range of human rights abuses including exclusion from work, community life, and even the right to make important decisions for themselves.

Access to inclusive health and community-based services is critical for people with disabilities and is required by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Along with our local partners, we seek to end disability stigma and ensure the inclusive, equitable, and accessible delivery of mental health services. 

We influence governments to strengthen policy, improve legislation and invest in mental health systems and community-based programmes. We also challenge exclusion and discrimination so that mental health and psychosocial support needs are recognised and addressed as part of a comprehensive approach in development to wellbeing and inclusion.

Social stigma around barriers is one of the biggest barriers to inclusion.

Social stigma around disability is one of the biggest barriers to inclusion. Disability stigma negatively impacts the quality of life of people with disabilities, and often prevents them from playing a full role in society. This is a waste of human potential as well as an abuse of people’s human rights.

Stigmatising attitudes and behaviours around disability result from a lack of awareness, fear, prejudice, and discrimination. Harmful community attitudes and behaviours include false assumptions and beliefs that having a disability is shameful, bad luck, or even dangerous.

Elisha, wearing a blue shirt, sits at his desk in his classroom. He is holding a pencil and his exercise book is in front of him.

Ending disability stigma and championing inclusive mental health

Disability stigma increases the likelihood of dependency on others, having a lower income, poorer health, and achieving a lower level of education:

  • People with disabilities are sometimes locked up or hidden away from the public, limiting their access to work and productive livelihood opportunities.
  • Children with disabilities may not attend school if parents and teachers see little value in educating them.
  • If health workers hold discriminatory attitudes, people with disabilities may not receive treatment and therefore may stop seeking it.

This impacts upon individuals as well as their wider family and friends, putting great strain on their relationships. People sometimes internalise these false, negative beliefs resulting in self-stigma, and detrimentally affecting their emotional wellbeing.

Ending Disability Stigma

People with disabilities should be treated with dignity and be empowered to achieve their full potential. 

Stigma reduction must be at the heart of all we do if we are serious about breaking the poverty-disability cycle and achieving inclusive societies. This means:

  1. Raising awareness to demystify disability
  2. Increasing the visibility of people with disabilities as active members of their communityand agents of change
  3. Peer to peer support can counter self-stigma
  4. The disability movement can lead the way, turning lived experience into meaningful response

This short video tells the story of stigma in the life of Mourine