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Has the Pandemic Reduced the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health?

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Has the Pandemic Reduced the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a noticeable toll on the mental health and well-being of people around the world. In the US alone, roughly one in three adults experienced symptoms of depression and/or anxiety at the height of the pandemic.(1) 

Attitudes around mental health are improving in recent history, but mental health stigma still contributes to people putting off seeking treatment for mental health issues, meaning they don’t get the help they need. 

Depression and other mental health conditions can happen to anyone. If you’re struggling with your mental health, seek help today.

Are you a candidate for TMS?

What Is Mental Health Stigma?

Mental health stigma refers to negative attitudes about mental illness, like shame or lack of understanding. The stigma around mental health prevents people from getting help and has been an obstacle to progress in the mental health field.(2,3)

Studies show that mental health stigma stems from:(4)

  • Lack of education
  • Lack of awareness
  • Lack of perception
  • The nature of mental illness, such as “odd” behavior

Stigma not only exists around having a mental illness, but also around the act of seeking help or getting treatment. For example, taking antidepressants is still seen by some as a sign of weakness or an inability to handle problems in life, and some still doubt their ability to relieve depression symptoms.(5) However, antidepressants are proven to be helpful at reducing symptoms of depression and preventing relapses. Millions of people have found relief from depression with antidepressants.(6,7)

Effects of Stigma on Mental Health

Beyond the psychological and emotional effects stigma can have on people with mental illness, it can also result in a variety of other negative effects. These may include isolation, discrimination, and exclusion from social groups – all of which can further contribute to the worsening of mental health conditions and symptoms.(8)

Unfortunately, while the pandemic has helped more people open up about their mental health struggles, many people still don’t get the help they need. In 2022, over 27 million US adults with mental health disorders did not receive treatment, and studies show that stigma plays a significant role in preventing people from seeking treatment.(9,10)

There is nothing wrong with getting help. If you are struggling with your mental health, it’s important that you get the help you need as soon as possible. Delaying help and treatment can cause a worsening of symptoms and can result in treatments being less effective.

Are you ready to try TMS?

Current Attitudes around Mental Health Are Changing

Mental health stigma seems to be shifting. A 2022 survey found that 65% of Americans believe that mental illnesses are no different than medical illnesses. This statistic is up 23% from a similar study conducted in 2013.(11)

Is This Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Attitudes around mental health were slowly improving before 2020. When comparing a 2019 study to a similar study from 2017, 5% more people felt at ease discussing their mental illness, 7% more said they would tell friends if they were suffering a mental illness, and 4% more said they would have no reluctance seeking help.(12)

However, significant changes did occur during the pandemic. In a 2021 American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) survey, residents in rural areas reported greater ease when talking about stress and mental health and less stigma around the idea of seeking treatment than in previous polls from 2019 and 2020.(13)

Some statistics point directly to the pandemic as a catalyst for changes in attitude to mental health. According to the AFBF, 52% more adults reported stress and mental health struggle than in 2020, and that increase has led them to seek help.(13)

Don’t Let Stigma Stop You from Getting the Care You Deserve

Talk to us at Madison Ave TMS & Psychiatry about therapy options that can change your life. Contact us online or call (212) 731-2033 to book an appointment today. 


1. Kelly M. Breaking The Stigma: How The Pandemic Has Helped People Open Up About Mental Health Struggles. Published April 19, 2021. Link. Accessed June 13, 2022.

2. Shrivastava, A., Johnston, M., & Bureau, Y. Stigma of Mental Illness-1: Clinical reflections. Mens Sana Monogr. 2012;10(1):70-84. Link. Accessed June 10, 2022.

3.  Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness. Mayo Clinic. Published May 24, 2017. Link. Accessed June 10, 2022.

4. Shrivastava A, Johnston M, and Bureau Y. Stigma of Mental Illness-1: Clinical reflections. Mens Sana Monogr. 2012;10(1):70-84. Link. Accessed June 13, 2022.

5. Castaldelli-Maia, J. M., Scomparini, L. B., Andrade, A. G., Bhugra, D., de Toledo Ferraz Alves, T. C., & D’Elia, G. Perceptions of and attitudes toward antidepressants: stigma attached to their use–a review. The Journal of nervous and mental disease. 2011;199(11):866-871. Link. Accessed June 10, 2022.

6. Antidepressant Use Among Adults: United States, 2015-2018. National Center for Health Statistics. Published September 2020. Link. Accessed June 10, 2022.

7. Depression: How Effective Are Antidepressants? National Library of Medicine. Updated June 18, 2020. Link. Accessed June 10, 2022.

8. Mental Health Stigma and the Impact of the Pandemic. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Published October 13, 2020. Link. Accessed June 10, 2022.

9. The State of Mental Health in America. Mental Health America. Date of publishing unavailable. Link. Accessed June 10, 2022.

10. Schnyder N, Panczak R, Groth N, Schultze-Lutter F. Association between mental health-related stigma and active help-seeking: systematic review and meta-analysis [published correction appears in Br J Psychiatry. 2017 Sep;211(3):184]. Br J Psychiatry. 2017;210(4):261-268. Link. Accessed June 15, 2022.

11. Is the Stigma Around Mental Illness Fading? Oberland Finds That Attitudes Are Changing. Oberland. Published May 18, 2022. Link. Accessed June 10, 2022.

12. Stigma of mental illnesses decreasing, survey shows. Health Partners. Published February 24, 2020. Link. Accessed June 10, 2022.

13. Farmer and Rural Perceptions of Mental Health. American Farm Bureau Federation. Published December 2021. Link. Accessed, June 10, 2022.

Dr. David Woo

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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