Experiencing Stigma and Discrimination in Health and Social Care

If you feel you have experienced stigma and discrimination, we have information for you.

While there are lots of amazing and compassionate people working in health and social care, unfortunately we know that sometimes people do experience stigma and discrimination when trying to get help and support.

This can happen at all levels of health and social care, in both general and psychiatric hospitals, Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) appointments and when people attend A&E or GPs. This may be down to lack of resources, education or even understanding. Sometimes people aren't trying to treat someone in a discriminatory or stigmatising way and it can happen unintentionally, but that doesn't make it any less painful for the person experiencing it.

But going to seek professional advice is a big step for many to take, so we need health and social care professionals to get it right.

If you're not sure if you have experienced stigma or discrimination, our volunteers chatted to us about their experiences of stigma and discrimination, to help others recognise how it looks.

What Might Stigma and Discrimination Look Like?

  • Dismissed by professional that says there is nothing wrong (without any exploration of the issue).
  • Being compared to other patients.
  • Being treated as a diagnosis, rather than a person.
  • Feeling not being listened to.
  • Having their physical health concerns ignored and being told their just linked to their mental health problem e.g. someones migraine being dismissed as just stress, and the causes not being properly looked at.
  • Assumptions being made due to someone's appearance (You can't be depressed because your hair is clean etc).
  • Prescribing medication rather than exploring the issue and offering alternative treatment.
  • People being told they are wasting time and people who are 'actually ill' need to be treated.
  • Being dismissed as attention seeking.
  • Being judged by administrative staff, or not being taken seriously.

What Can You Do?

If you find that you are experiencing stigma or discrimination here are some tips:

Know Your Rights

Knowing your rights can be really helpful when trying to challenge stigma and discrimination. Rights for Life is a declaration of rights created by thousands of people with experience of mental health conditions in Scotland, alongside See Me, the Scottish Recovery Network and VOX.

The Declaration is for people affected by mental health issues, who can use it to help claim their rights. The people and organisations responsible for respecting, protecting and fulfilling rights in Scotland can use the Declaration to inform their policy, practices and responses to people asserting their rights.

Download Rights for Life

Challenge your Experiences in Public

You can highlight and challenge stigma through sharing stories on your experiences of health care with Care Opinion. They can pass them on to the people who can make a difference, publish them on their website, and ours, and you can also see other people's stories, who may have had similar experiences to you.

You can also share positive feedback when you feel that a service has supported you well so that others can learn. 

When they publish your story on the site, they don't say who you are, and we never share your personal details with anyone else.

Over 500 organisations have signed up to use Care Opinion to listen to what patients, service users and carers are saying so that they can make improvements to service access and provision. They work with health and care providers, commissioners, health boards, regulators, professional bodies, educators, researchers and patient groups.

To give you an idea of the types of stories people share, we are working with Care Opinion, to highlight stories on mental health stigma and discrimination in health care. You can read the ten most recent stories here. You can share your story with them below.


Share Your Story

Speaking to a health and social care professional

Find out what you can expect when speaking to a health care professional.

Find out more

Find out more about stigma and discrimination

Find out more about the what stigma and discrimination in health and social care looks like, and the impact it can have.

Find out more