Stigma-Free Campaign

Gloucester County Proud to Be Stigma-FreeWhat Is a Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses refer to disorders generally characterized by dysregulation of mood, thought, and/or behavior. Mental illness encompasses a variety of disorders ranging from depression and anxiety to substance and alcohol use disorder and bipolar disorder. Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income.

What Is Stigma?

Stigma is a mark of disgrace which results from the judgment by others. When an individual is labeled by their illness they experience judgment and prejudice. Stigma brings experiences and feelings of:

  • Distress
  • Embarrassment
  • Hopelessness
  • Reluctance to seek or accept help
  • Shame

As a result, stigma is the primary reason individuals do not seek help when they experience symptoms of mental illness. Stigma hurts everyone living with mental illness, along with their families, friends, colleagues, and the communities in which they live. It is a primary barrier to the achievement of wellness and recovery as well as full social integration and appears as distrust, fear, stereotyping, and discrimination. See the 2023 Stigma Free Resource Guide for more information.


  • More than 50 million adults - nearly 25% of the U.S. adult population - live with mental disorders or substance abuse disorders on an annual basis.
  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for ages 15 to 44.
  • Success rates of treatment for mental illnesses are high. The NIMH cites that successful treatment of illnesses such as schizophrenia (60%), depression (70 to 80%), and panic disorder (70 to 90%) surpass those of other medical conditions (heart disease, for example, has a treatment success rate of 45 to 50%).


  • (n.d.). Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from
  • Welcome to an Engaged Community. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2016, from