The Stigma of Mental Illness - Part 1

The word stigma originates “from the Latin stigmat-, mark, brand,” and “from Greek stizein to tattoo.” This word describes a permanent mark affixed upon the human body, and we humans, traditionally, have a fear what such a mark can portend.


The Mark of Cain, the branding of a slave, a drunk, or a prostitute, the Roman branding of fugitives, the Puritanical Scarlet Letter. We even have a prophecy in the book of Revelation that only those who bare the Mark of the Beast will be permitted to engage in commerce.

16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Revelation 13:16-17 King James Version (KJV)

Announcing that in the end times, the stigma of a brand will turn into a positive for those who on the evil side with the Devil, and not having a brand will mark you on the good side with God. It is impossible to escape the deep-rooted, human belief that a permanent mark indicates someone, or something to stay away from.

Upon hearing the word today, you feel the impulse to rear back and guard yourself; lest you receive a similar brand. This fear is so strong that some people have called me and said, “Thank you for talking about this; it is important that we talk more about it today.”

In the back of my mind, I ask: “What is the ‘it’ they are referring to”?

It is a sign of progress that even though most people still do not feel comfortable saying the words mental illness, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and suicide; at least a conversation can happen. Even if the __________________ disorder remains unsaid, that is far better than no one talking about mental illness at all.

This will be a multi-part series where I examine the history of stigma, how mental illness was stigmatized, and ways that you can help excise this blot on human wellness.

For now, I encourage you to donate to the Cure Stigma campaign, run by NAMI at: