What is Stigma?

Stigma is the shame, negative attitudes, and discrimination shown towards those living with mental health difficulties. It is borne out of fear and misunderstanding but perpetuated through language, misrepresentation and miseducation.

Many of us can hold negative opinions towards people experiencing mental health issues because we are unaware of the complexities of mental health. The prevalence of myths and misconceptions doesn’t help.

People with stigmatised illnesses do not usually announce themselves. That is why the media’s representation of mental ill health is so important. People often form their attitudes towards mental health through the news reports or television programmes they watch, or radio they listen to. For that reason, the media have a significant role to play in reducing stigma towards people with mental health difficulties.

Examples of stigma in the media

News stories often sensationalise crimes committed by people with mental health difficulties, even if the person’s mental health is of no relevance to the story.

The media often represent people with mental health problems as being violent, dangerous, and unpredictable.

The use of derogatory words such as ‘schizo’, ‘psycho’, ‘lunatic’, and ‘nutter’.

About Headline

Headline is Ireland’s national programme for responsible reporting, and representation of mental illness and suicide. Our objective is to work as collaboratively as possible with Irish media professionals across print, broadcast, and online platforms to reduce the effects of suicide contagion, and the stigma attached to mental ill health.