People can discriminate out of fear or lack of understanding and misinformation. There are two types of discrimination: 

Direct discrimination 

Direct discrimination happens when someone is negatively affected by the direct actions of someone else because of their mental illness e.g. Aroha discloses to her friends that she lives with bipolar. They stop hanging out with her because they’re afraid she’ll snap or act weird around them. 

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination happens when the situation designed for one group of people does not cater for another group. e.g. An employer decides that all staff must take on at least two late night shifts per week without exception. Pete takes medication for schizoaffective disorder that makes him feel sleepy in the evenings and will not be able to do the late shifts, so his boss makes his role redundant.

Where does discrimination happen and who discriminates?

Mental illness discrimination can happen in many different settings, but is common in employment, education, housing, insurance and the health system. Friends and whānau may also discriminate against loved ones.

Why do people discriminate against people with mental illness?

People develop their ideas about people with mental illness from many different sources.  They might see or hear things from friends and whānau, or they may watch a movie or read news articles depicting people who live with mental illness as violent, evil or unsafe. Some cultures also view mental illness as a curse or punishment. 

Over time people can form negative beliefs and attitudes towards people with mental illness, this is what we call stigma. If an individual with personal experience of mental illness carries these same negative and stereotyped perceptions, they can be described as having self-stigma, which can lower their self-confidence and make them feel less worthy because of their experience. The stigma people hold towards those experiencing a mental illness can affect how they interact with and treat them, leading to discrimination.