Facts on Stigma and Discrimination

Eliminating mental health stigma and discrimination is the first and foremost challenge facing any employer wishing to respond to the mental health needs of their staff.

Facts on stigma and discrimination

Stigma is where an employee (or potential employee) is perceived as being different because of their mental health problems. Prejudice about mental health may be conscious or unconscious. If a member of staff is treated differently by managers, colleagues or a recruiter, this may also be discrimination and might be against the law.


Mental health stigma in the workplace can take many forms. In some cases, it can be very blatant – such as when people use insulting phrases like ‘nutter’, ‘psycho’ or ‘they're mental’ which can be extremely hurtful. In other cases, it is more subtle - being left out of discussions by colleagues or being talked about behind backs.

At its worst someone might lose their job. A UK-wide stigma survey found that one in five people had lost their job due to stigma. It can also result in being written off for promotion or a new job because of uninformed assumptions about whether they would be able to cope with the new responsibilities.

In all cases, stigma and discrimination can undermine  morale, causing loss of  self-confidence and self-esteem.

Why talking about mental health is so important

In 2021, See Me surveyed 1000 Scottish workers to find out about their experiences of mental health stigma and discrimination in the workplace. The results highlighted a number of key issues:

  • 43%

    of people felt that someone with a mental health problem would be unlikely to disclose for fear of being moved to another post or passed over for promotion

  • 38%

    of people thought that someone with a mental health problem would be unlikely to disclose it for fear of being discriminated against by colleagues (bullying, harassment, name calling, isolation)

  • 68

    of people thought that someone in their work would be supported by management if they were unwell

The Scottish Mental Illness Stigma Study has also shown us that people with experience of the most severe, enduring and complex mental illnesses continue to face stigma and discrimination at work:

  • 57%

    of respondents said that they had faced stigma and discrimination in employment in the last 12 months

  • 71%

    said that they had been treated unfairly by employers, supervisors or managers

  • 52%

    had felt pressured not to discuss their mental health needs at work

Policy, Practice and Law

Information mental health policies, reasonable adjustments, legal protection from discrimination and mental health in recruitment.

Find out more