Find Help, Find Hope!


Stigma against the mentally ill is so powerful that it’s been codified for 50 years into federal law, and few outside the mental health system even realize it.

NAMI StigmaBusters is a network of dedicated advocates across the country and around the world who seek to fight inaccurate and hurtful representations of mental illness.

Whether these images are found in TV, film, print, or other media, StigmaBusters speak out and challenge stereotypes. They seek to educate society about the reality of mental illness and the courageous struggles faced by consumers and families every day. StigmaBusters’ goal is to break down the barriers of ignorance, prejudice, or unfair discrimination by promoting education, understanding, and respect.

Each month, close to 20,000 advocates receive a NAMI StigmaBusters Alert, and it is read by countless others around the world online. Send it to your own personal and professional networks. Numbers do count, so let your voice be heard.

What is Stigma?

  • An attempt to label a particular group of people as less worthy of respect than others
  • A mark of shame, disgrace or disapproval that results in discrimination
  • Not just a matter of using the wrong word or action – its about disrespect

Stigma leads to

  • Inadequate insurance coverage for mental health services
  • Fear, mistrust, and violence against people living with mental   illness and their families
  • Family and friends turning their backs on people with mental illness
  • Prejudice and discrimination
  • Discrimination against people who have mental illnesses keeps them from seeking help. While 1 in 5 Americans live with a mental disorder, estimates indicate that nearly two-thirds of all people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment, especially people from diverse communities. Lack of knowledge, fear of disclosure, rejection of friends, and discrimination are a few reasons why people with mental
  • illness don’t seek help.
  • Discrimination against people with mental illness violates their rights and denies them opportunities Despite Civil Rights Law such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with mental illnesses often experience discrimination in the workplace, education, housing, and healthcare.
  • Ethnic and racial communities in the US face a social and economic environment of inequality that includes greater exposure to racism, discrimination, violence and poverty.
  • Mistrust of mental health services is an important reason for deterring people of color from seeking treatment. Their concerns are reinforced by evidence (both direct and indirect) of clinician bias and stereotyping The cultures of racial and ethnic groups alter the types of mental health services used. Clinical environments that do not respect or are incompatible with the cultures of the people they serve may deter people from seeking help to begin with, adherence to treatment and follow-up care.
  • Culture Counts – One’s racial or ethnic background bears upon whether people even seek help in the first place, what types of help they seek, what coping styles and social supports they have, and how much stigma they attach to mental illness.

Fighting Stigma

Use respectful language. Put the person before the illness – use phrases such as “a person with schizophrenia”. Never use terms like crazy, lunatic, psycho, retarded and correct people who do so       .stand-up-logo-hi-res.jpg

Provide professional development opportunities for staff, regarding diversity, mental health issues, and fostering an inclusive work environment. Include mental illness in discussions about acceptance of diversity, just as you would discuss cultural diversity, religious beliefs, physical disability, and sexual orientation.

Become an advocate. Create awareness by writing letters to newspapers and lawmakers. Speak out and challenge stereotypes portrayed in the media. Take it upon yourself to inform your community about the truth of mental illness.

Teach others about mental illness. Spread understanding that these are illnesses like any other.

Become a StigmaBuster:

Are you angry about outdated, outrageous, offensive portrayals or language about persons with mental illness?

Become a StigmaBuster and tell the people creating or promoting these ads, characters, editorials and other stereotypes how you feel about their hurtful, demeaning and dehumanizing creations and pronouncements.

Visit the NAMI National website for more information or call (800) 950-NAMI.


NAMI Multicultural Action Center

This Center works to focus attention on system reform to ensure access to culturally competent services and treatment for all Americans and to help and support families of color who are dealing with mental illness.

STAR Center

(Support Technical Assistance Resource Center) – funded by CMHS, this center provides support, technical assistance, and resources to help improve and increase the capacity of consumer operated programs to meet the needs of persons living with mental illnesses from diverse communities.

StigmaBusters NAMI StigmaBuster

A group of dedicated advocates across the country who seek to fight the inaccurate, hurtful representations of

mental illness that can be found in TV, film, print, or other media. StigmaBusters’ goal is to break down the barriers

of ignorance, prejudice, or unfair discrimination by promoting education, understanding, and respect.


Anti-Stigma: Do You Know the Facts? SAMHSA Mental Health Information Center. 2003

Challenging Stereotypes: An Action Guide. SAMHSA. 2001

Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity. A Report of the Surgeon General. 2001


NAMI Northern Illinois is dedicated to improving the

quality of life of individuals with mental illness and their families through

Support, Education and Advocacy

Become a Member


Get Involved


Get In Touch