Mental Illness & Stigma

This was written for Washington State University PSYCH-105.

“Do you think there is a stigma associated with mentally ill persons today? Why or why not?”

In regards to stigma, of course there is a stigma. In a high paced economy fundamentally built on competition, where high levels of internal locus of control is reciprocally determined, how could there not be? In many cases, it feels like the stigma, leads to less of an action, but more of a social apathy regarding mental illness. In the United States, one third of adults have difficulty covering basic expenses (Selyukh, 2020), and businesses and their owners have these problems too (Rusz, 2020). In this kind of environment putting people against people, people are hard pressed to accommodate the two things that humanity has worked itself out of, patience and time, which seems to be a necessity of therapy, and healthcare.

To quote a passage from Portia Nelson’s (1993) “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters”, it ends with what could be stigmatizing to the street, “I walk down another street.” I find it disheartening a bit, however, am not surprised, the environment definitely has helped condition this behavior, and as Skinner (1971) notes in Beyond Freedom & Dignity, “the evolution of a culture is a gigantic exercise is self-control” (p. 215). Contingencies of reinforcers are definitely at play in the stigmatization, I feel. Perhaps the autonomous-man of Skinner implies that “self” might just be a part of the issue, over-indulged at the expense of a great many, left under its gears of the great clockwork transaction, in process trying to find it. 

There’s much more to be said, and discussed, and contributed to, and I’d like to work together here, because this is a problem, worth working on. Though I believe that unless there is a change of contingencies, like Skinner seems to have believed, then the problem probably will only get worse, as “without attention there can be no understanding and hence no communication. Apparently the act of attending carefully to another person is a difficult task for most people” (Hobbs, 1951, p. 349).

Note: There is an aspect of Skinner’s I do not concur with, and that is that individual contingencies need to be replaced by social contingencies, I think there are valences of a healthy reciprocal-determinism. However, if social contingencies looks after individuals, then I may be flexible in this lack of concurrence. That said, this writing is most likely the result of environmental conditioning.


Nelson, P. (1993). Autobiography in five short chapters.

Hobbs, N. (1951). Group-centered psychotherapy. In C.R., Client-centered therapy: its current practice, implications, and theory. Houghton Mifflin Co.

Rusz, V. (2020, September 23). Council post: Five STEPS business owners can take to stop living paycheck to paycheck. Retrieved April 20, 2021, from

Selyukh, A. (2020, December 16). Paycheck-To-Paycheck nation: Why Even Americans with higher Income struggle with bills. Retrieved April 20, 2021, from

Skinner, B.F. (1971). Beyond freedom & dignity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.