Differentiating between discrimination, prejudice, and stigma.*
Sylvia Caras, April 2006

Discrimination is an action.

Prejudice is a point of view in the mind of someone else.

Stigma is a point of view in your own mind.


Sometimes there are laws protecting people’s right to not be discriminated against.


To change someone else’s point of view, make space so they can get to know us as individual people – inclusion, us at the table, rubbing elbows ...


Mental health diagnosis and services have taught us many negative, helpless images of ourselves. These beliefs inside our own heads may be the very hardest to change. However, someone can try to be stigmatizing, or a system can try to stigmatize but the person has to put on the "Scarlet A" before it works. Anti-stigma campaigns confuse prejudice and stigma and, like all negative campaigns, are effective in strengthening existing prejudices and polarizations.


* Darby Penney introduced me to the concept of discrimination. J Rock Johnson clarified for me the difference between actions and bias.