Perceived legitimacy of discrimination shapes reactions to mental illness stigma among stigmatized individuals. We assessed deliberately endorsed versus automatic shame-related reactions to mental illness as predictors of change in perceived legitimacy of discrimination over six months among 75 people with mental illness. Automatically activated shame-related associations with mental illness were measured using the Brief Implicit Association Test, deliberately endorsed beliefs via self-report. Controlling for depression and perceived stigma, stronger baseline automatic shame-related associations, but not deliberately endorsed beliefs, predicted higher perceived legitimacy of discrimination after six months. Automatically activated shame reactions may increase vulnerability to mental illness stigma.