Mental Health Stigma in Recovery

The Power of Labels

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Mental Health Stigma in Recovery

The Power of Labels

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The information presented on this page is a general overview and is offered here as a comprehensive resource. At Ampelis Recovery, our programs are customized and tailored to the individual’s needs. Specific details below that cover treatment protocols may not reflect the protocols used for our clients.

If you would like to learn more about Ampelis Recovery and our customized programs for professional men, please do not hesitate to reach out.


What is Mental Health Stigma?

Recovering from addiction is complicated because of a variety of factors. Stigma is one of the main factors that can make recovery difficult.1 By reducing community stigma surrounding mental health and addiction, recovery from substance use disorders can be supported. Let’s take a look at what mental health stigma is and how it can impact recovery.

Stigma: Society’s Stereotypes

Understanding what stigma means, is an important step in identifying where stigma exists within our culture. Merriam-Webster defines “stigma” as, “a mark of shame or discredit.”2 Stigma is often a generalization or stereotype that society has made about a group of people, giving them a negative connotation that can be incredibly hard to escape. Stigmas are typically taught at a young age and many people may grow up feeling the negative effects. The negativity that is attached to stigmas does not serve our society. Because of this, we must work to end the mental health and addiction stigmas.

Stigma Today

Mental health stigma is easy to see in our culture today. The reality is that people with excellent mental health are not any better or worse a

What People Say About Mental Health Stigma – Michelle Obama

“Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents people who need help from seeking it. But that simply doesn’t make any sense. Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there shouldn’t be any distinction. We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together. We don’t consider taking medication for an ear infection something to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t treat mental health conditions any differently. Instead, we should make it clear that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength—and we should ensure that people can get the treatment they need.”3

Victim or Aggressor?

The American Psychological Association says that people with a mental illness are two and a half times more likely to be victims of crime compared to the general public.4 This is in spite of the fact that people with mental illness are less likely to be violent. The stigma masks the fact that people with mental health issues will more likely be victims rather than aggressors.

Prevalence of Mental Health Conditions

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, every year 20% of American adults will deal with mental illness.5 Mental illness isn’t rare, and you most likely know multiple people who deal with it every single day. So, spreading awareness and compassion is an important step in removing the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Stigma of Addiction

Addiction is a complicated struggle. The stigma of addiction does not benefit anyone and can complicate the addiction process.1 The stigma of addiction may discourage individuals from seeking treatment. Removing the stigma surrounding addiction will encourage treatment and help recovery.

Learn More About Healing the Brain

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Social Stigma

There are two types of stigma which are incredibly important to bring up in this discussion. The first is social stigma, which can occur between anyone. Strangers, family, and friends can all further social stigma. The fear of what others will think stops some people from seeking life-saving help, which is one of the reasons why our culture must work to dismantle its mental health stigma.

The negative stereotypes about mental health are often perpetuated by social stigma. When people allow themselves to be guided by their prejudices, stigmas develop. To change social stigma, we must educate both ourselves and others. Encouraging recovery from substances also means removing the addiction stigma that is so often attached to it.


A large part of recovery is the mental component. Both for those who are recovering from addiction and those living with anxiety and depression. Believing positive things about yourself is a step toward making positive change a reality. To achieve a goal, actionable steps must be created that make progress towards the goal manageable. Being able to imagine yourself achieving that goal can be motivation and help with success in the pursuit.

What People Say About Mental Health Stigma – Amanda Seyfried

“I’m on Lexapro, and I’ll never get off of it. I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years. I’m on the lowest dose. I don’t see the point of getting off of it. Whether it’s placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool? A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is. It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there. Why do you need to prove it? “6

Self-stigma is harmful, just as the stigma of addiction is complex. By believing stigmas and confining oneself to them, you’re allowing yourself to be put into the box that society has constructed. Breaking out of that box allows you to live as your authentic, true self.

The solution to ending self-stigma begins on a personal level. Pushing away the lies that have been placed on you by society is incredibly powerful and demonstrates incredible individuality.

The Power of Labels in Recovery

Labels are incredibly powerful and can influence not only how you see yourself, but also others.7 The way that we speak to ourselves often shapes who we become; utilizing the power of positive language can be extremely beneficial.

Being conscious of the labels that you use to describe yourself is one tool that can be used in recovery. Terms like “users” or even “addicts” can hold back your recovery.

It’s important to understand that a substance use disorder is something that people have, not what they are.

You should never be defined by one thing or be described solely by one part of their life. Addiction, mental health conditions, and disabilities are small parts of your authentic self.

Changing the Narrative

Addiction is a serious issue, and the stigma of addiction continues to cause problems. Addiction deserves to be treated with compassion and not shame. Viewing addiction as a moral weakness doesn’t leave room for hope.

What People Say About Mental Health Stigma – Kristen Bell

“There is such an extreme stigma about mental health issues, and I can’t make heads or tails of why it exists. Anxiety and depression are impervious to accolades or achievements. Anyone can be affected, despite their level of success or their place on the food chain. In fact, there is a good chance you know someone who is struggling with it since nearly 20% of American adults face some form of mental illness in their lifetime. So why aren’t we talking about it?”8

We can encourage treatment by shifting the narrative and bringing up the point that addiction can impact anyone and is not a moral failure. There are a lot more possibilities to improve your future when stigma is removed. By changing perspective on this, more people will seek out the life-changing treatment they need without fear of judgment. The power of labels lies in the language that we use and the meaning behind them.

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