Reduce Stigma Against Mental Illness

Project Name:
Mental Illness Awareness Campaign

Team Leaders, Members and their Organizational Affiliations:

  • Donna Norkoli – District Health Department #10


  • Angie Bruning – Great Start Collaborative
  • Kim Chandler – Munson Healthcare
  • Stacey Kaminski – Northern Lakes Community Mental Health
  • Paula Martin – Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities
  • Tara Rybicki – Munson Healthcare
  • Stephanie Williams – Munson Healthcare

Stigma Against Mental Illness Video

Project Description

This campaign is produced by the Reduce Stigma Against Mental Illness Action Team which is part of the Behavioral Health Initiative and Northwest Community Health Innovation Region (NWCHIR). The Action Team has been working to reduce stigma against mental illness since November 2021. Stigma against mental illness is a major barrier to accessing services in the region. Residents are likely to avoid seeking the supports they need for fear of negative consequences, such as judgement from friends/family, unpleasant interactions with healthcare providers, or workplace fallout. Stigma can have powerful effects on individuals’ health, employment, and quality of life. Therefore, addressing stigma against mental illness in the region is a fast and effective way to improve residents’ quality of life.

Since the start of the project, the team has collected data from over 1000 local residents about their experience of stigma, interviewed locals with personal experiences with mental illness, and created an inspiring video from the resulting footage. They are in the midst of a social media campaign designed to educate the public about the prevalence of stigma in the region and to inspire them to make changes in their personal & professional lives to affect this. This campaign can be found on District Health Department #10’s Facebook Page and is intended for everyone, regardless of whether or not they have personal experience with mental illness. The campaign was designed around the results of the community survey, to ensure that the issues identified by residents were given the platform needed to affect change in the region.

Public Stigma Survey Data Summary

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Community Stigma Survey

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Words Hold Power Language Guide

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Interested in sharing this campaign on your agency’s Facebook page?

September 2022 Behavioral Health Summit Materials

Stigma harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. It shames them into silence and prevents them from seeking help. As a result, people often wait until their mental illness or substance use disorder becomes a crisis to seek help.

The Action Team analyzed the results of the Public Stigma Against Mental Illness Survey implemented in February, 2022. The Team reviewed best-practices for anti-stigma campaigns around the country. Then, the team interviewed a diverse group of local people experiencing mental illnesses, inviting them to tell their story and created a video campaign from these interviews.

The survey results showed that the majority of people with mental illnesses in the region experience public stigma and discrimination. A significant number reported experiencing the most prevalent discrimination in workplaces, from providers, and from law enforcement. To combat this, the team developed a video showcasing first-hand experiences with mental illness in order to increase exposure to and reduce stigma against mental illnesses.

  • Distribute the video around the region.
  • Design a public awareness campaign to further combat the stigma in the region, especially amongst providers and law enforcement. 
  • Implement some evidence-based trainings and toolkits for worksites, healthcare providers and law enforcement to reduce stigma regarding mental illness.

April 2022 Behavioral Health Summit Materials

Behavioral health is not prioritized in our culture. People often wait until their mental illness or substance misuse becomes a crisis to seek help. This is at least partially due to the lack of awareness of the warning signs and risks of mental illness and substance use disorders. Furthermore, people are wary of seeking help for mental illnesses and substance use disorders as a result of the stigma against them and the associated services.

The Action Team developed a community-wide survey to understand people’s beliefs about mental illness and people experiencing mental illness. The team also identified the language that helps cut across stigma against mental illness and substance use disorders.

The Action Team developed and distributed a survey to measure public stigma against mental illness in the 10-county region. Upon completion of the survey, people were directed to informational resources and services for mental health. The survey found that 63% of people with mental illness have experienced discrimination in the workplace. Another 44% reported experiencing discrimination in healthcare settings. Furthermore, 93% percent of those surveyed identified stigma as an obstacle to seeking treatment for mental illness.

  • Utilize this research, in collaboration with existing initiatives, to create a public awareness campaign and anti-stigma trainings rebranding mental illness and substance use disorders
  • If you know someone experiencing mental illness, visit your local National Alliance on Mental Illness website for support.