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Smashing Stereotypes with Stamma Campaign

Today (18 Jul) the British Stammering Association (BSA) launched Stamma, a major campaign to reposition stammering as a serious issue and to challenge existing misconceptions of the condition.

YouGov polling showed over half of those surveyed mistakenly believed that a stammer is caused by nerves and more than one 1 in 4 (27%) said that they would feel comfortable hearing a joke about stammering.*

“Our own survey with BSA members shows that the lack of knowledge, empathy and the negative stereotypes about stammering can blight the lives of people who stammer, affecting their confidence, career expectations and mental health,” said Jane Powell, CEO, the British Stammering Association.

99% of BSA members surveyed had felt ashamed of stammering. 60% had been bullied because of it, 57% said it had impacted their career and 15% felt suicidal.**

It is time to take stammering seriously. It isn’t funny and people who stammer shouldn’t be written off as unintelligent, nervous or untrustworthy.”

Stammering affects up to 1.5 million adults in the UK. Primarily a neurological and hereditary condition, stammering is an intense physical struggle to get words out, profoundly different from the usual hesitations and repetitions everybody experiences.

The Stamma campaign posters show the words ‘I Stammer’ in a disruptive, blocked and extended format, visually illustrating the speech of someone who stammers. Set within this text are messages from real people who stammer, such as “I’m not nervous” and “Don’t hang up on me.” The campaign is supported by BSA Patrons, including Ed BallsDame Margaret DrabbleDavid Mitchell and Scroobius Pip, all of whom stammer.

BSA Patron Ed Balls said, “When I was an MP my colleagues in Parliament and the media sometimes mistook my stammer for nerves or a lack of conviction. It was very frustrating but I learned that to be open about my stammer took the pressure off me and helped them understand. I hope this campaign will help many more people understand what a stammer is all about, so that more people who stammer are able to make the most of their talent and potential.”

Abed Ahmed, BSA Trustee, Supporter and Teacher, Washwood Heath Academy, Birmingham said,

“Being bullied, teased or simply not being given the time to say what they want, all contribute to a student feeling that their opinions don’t matter. It’s awful to think that children are limiting their dreams for the future based on the ill-informed opinions of others.”

The eye-catching campaign, designed by London-based agency ZAG Ltd, is designed to dispel the common misconceptions around stammering and encourage those who stammer to share their own stories and join the campaign.

From today, Stamma digital poster sites will be going up across the UK including locations such as London Euston Station and Glasgow’s St. Enoch Centre using advertising spaces from JCDecaux UK and Ocean Outdoor.


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2012 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th – 7th November 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Q1: On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is “Extremely uncomfortable” and 10 is “Extremely comfortable”…In general, how comfortable or uncomfortable would you feel if someone made a joke about stammering or stuttering? (Please the option that comes closest) Net 27%, ‘comfortable’ 6-10)

Q6: Which, if any, of the following do you think are causes of someone stammering or stuttering? (Please select all that apply): Having a social anxiety 51%; Nervous personality 49%; a learning disability 14%.

**Survey Monkey

Feb 2019 – June 2019, 260 responses.

Q2. Do you ever feel ashamed of your stammer? Often 32.31%; Sometimes 35.38%; Rarely 5%; I used to but I no longer feel ashamed of my stammer 26.15%; Never 1.15%.

Q10. Have you ever been bullied because of your stammer? Yes – As a child I was bullied because of my stammer 44.23%; Yes – As an adult I have been bullied because of my stammer 5.38%; Yes – As a child AND as an adult I have been bullied because of my stammer 11.15%; No – I have never been bullied because of my stammer 39.23%

Q3. Has having a stammer affected your choice of career? Yes 56.54%; No 38.46%; N/A 5%

Q15. Has the way in which people have reacted to your stammer ever left you feeling in any of the following ways (tick all that apply)? Frustrated 89.23%; Angry 65.38%; Patronised 62.69%; Anxious 65%; Depressed 59.23%; Invisible 41.54%; Not listened to 67.69%; Alone 50.77%; Awkward 78.46%; Suicidal 14.62%; N/A 1.15%.


A stammer is an intense struggle to physically get words out; this is profoundly different from the usual hesitations and repetitions most people experience. Research suggests that 8% of children will stammer at some point with up 1.5 million (3%) UK adults reporting that they have a stammer. Stammering is a neurological condition which usually arises during the development of the brain in childhood. Stammering is frequently hereditary and if it continues into adulthood, will mainly affect men. In adulthood, people may learn to ‘manage’ their stammer, but there is no cure. Often the hardest word someone who stammers struggles with is their name.

Because of the stigma around stammering many ‘hide’ their stammer by swapping words, avoiding situations, not saying what they want to say and keeping their stammer secret from employers, close friends and loved ones. This is known as covert or interiorised stammering.

People who stammer/have stammered include: Winston Churchill, Philip Larkin, Dame Margaret Drabble, Henry James, Aldous Huxley, Alan Turing, Owen Sheers, Ed Sheeran, Emily Blunt, Nicholas Parsons, Elvis Presley, Bruce Willis, Tiger Woods and Marilyn Monroe.

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