Stop The Stigma – Mental Health


There’s seems to be so much buzz around mental health awareness lately, and I couldn’t be more proud to hear about it. It is making my heart, and mind so happy. Everywhere I look there seems to be a meme, poster, or post related to mental health.

Time To Change launched their February 1 2018 awareness campaign, then soon after Bell’s Lets Talk followed suit. (In case you are wondering where it is all coming from).

Both campaigns are working towards a similar goal to put an end to Mental Health stigma and discrimination. They are providing people with an abundance of resources, and empowering people to Speak Up. I encourage everyone to get involved. Every effort made leads to results, so let’s all stand up and make one ginormous impact together.

I am sure at some point we (Mental Health Conquerors) have all felt the negative effects of stigmatization at some point, including myself.

I went many years without seeking professional help because I was trying to do the impossible by braving it out. I was forcing myself to just ride the highs and lows the best I could, but eventually it led to maladaptive coping techniques and major mood instability. I was extremely fragile at my lowest point, and when my partner couldn’t deal with my withdrawn and disconnected state…. He left. This sent me spiraling into a bottomless pit of darkness, feeling utterly empty, dazed, and alone. (With that being said, my heart and mind forgave him, not every relationship is meant to work out. He came into my life to teach me something, then his purpose was done.) The weeks that followed are a blur, I remember feeling numb, and lacking a significant amount of energy that I couldn’t even bring myself to do the simple everyday things that took little to no effort to do before. I knew I couldn’t survive like that; I reached out to my doctor for professional and medical help. Bless her soul. After trial and error with medications, and psychotherapy, I started feeling like myself again, and I am back stronger than ever. What was my point of me telling you all of this? Oh ya, it had to do with the stigma surrounding psychiatric medications. It’s the main reason why I never reached out for help after all this time.

I was afraid of what people would think. I knew some important people in my life would disapprove of medication therapy mainly due to ignorance and/or lack of education. All it took was a little research on my part, and teaching about mental health to start changing people’s views.

Taking medication is not the “easy way out”, it requires commitment and effort, but more importantly it helps me to really live each day. It is absolutely no different than taking medication for a physical illness. I take it because I have a chemical imbalance, and you possibly take medication for a biological (or chemical) reason related to the cardiovascular, respiratory or any other related body system. Just because I have a bad day, it doesn’t mean I forgot to take my medication. I will have ups and downs just like anybody else in this whole wide world. Medication has and will not change my identity or who I am as a person, instead they have helped to relieve the symptoms of the illness. No, they are not a “happy pill”, in-fact they don’t make me happy at all; they decrease the threshold of the low state and help prevent future relapse. Sometimes you just have to face the fact that I (or you) might have to be on medication for a lifetime. Sometimes there is no “fixing” it, instead it is a matter of learning to function and survive with it. Regardless, it is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Taking care of yourself is the most rewarding thing anyone can do for their mind, body and soul.

| Now lets talk – education |

What is Stigma and Discrimination?

Stigma is a negative stereotype. Stigma is a reality for many people with a mental illness, and they report that how others judge them is one of their greatest barriers to a complete and satisfying life.

Stigma differs from discrimination. Discrimination is unfair treatment due to a person’s identity, which includes race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability, including mental disorder.

Stigma is the negative stereotype and discrimination is the behaviour that results from this negative stereotype.

Credit: CMHA

What can we do to STOP the stigma?

  • Know the facts – Educate yourself about substance use and mental health problems
  • Be aware of your attitudes and behaviour – We’ve all grown up with prejudices and judgmental thinking, which are passed on by society and reinforced by family, friends and the media. But we can change the way we think—and see people as unique human beings, not as labels or stereotypes.
  • Choose your words carefully – The way we speak can affect the way other people think and speak.
  • Educate others – Speak up. Find opportunities to pass on facts and positive attitudes about people with substance use and mental health problems.
  • Focus on the positive – People with mental health and substance use problems make valuable contributions to society. Their health problems are just one part of who they are.
  • Support people – Treat people who have substance use and mental health problems with dignity and respect. Think about how you’d like others to act toward you if you were in the same situation.
  • Include everyone – People with mental health and substance use problems have a right to take an equal part in society. Let’s make sure that happens.

Credit: CAMH

Bell’s – Lets Talk (Stopping Stigma)

Language matters – Words to watch out for: “Schizo”, instead say a “Person with schizophrenia” or “Crazy”, instead say a “Person with a mental illness

Educate yourself – Stigma has been around for a long time, and knowing the facts and myths about mental illness can be a great way to help end the stigma. Read about facts and myths, and become a stigma buster.

Be kind – Simple kindness can make a world of difference. Whether it be a smile, being a good listener or an invitation for coffee and a chat, these simple acts of kindness can help open up the conversation and let someone know you are there for them. Expressions like “You’ll get over it” and “Just relax” can minimize how a person is feeling. Instead offer your support and say “I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well.” Ask what you can do to help.

Listen and ask – Mental illness is a very common form of human pain and suffering. Being a good listener and asking how you can help, sometimes just even being there for people you care about, can be the first step in recovery.

Talk about it – Break the silence.

Credit: Bell Lets Talk

Did you know?

  • 1 person in 5 in Canada (over 6 million people) will have a mental health problem during their lifetime.
  • 1 in 7 Canadians aged 15 and older (about 3.5 million people) have alcohol-related problems; 1 in 20 (about 1.5 million) have cannabis-related concerns; and some have problems with cocaine, speed, ecstasy (and other hallucinogens), heroin and other illegal drugs.
  • Mental health and substance use problems affect people of all ages, education and income levels, religions, cultures and types of jobs.

Why do people develop mental health and substance use problems?

There are many reasons why people develop mental health and substance use problems:

  • Some are genetic or biological—people are born with them.
  • Some come from people’s experiences—such as stressful situations in their childhood; at school or work; or in places where they lived with injustice, violence or war.
  • And sometimes we simply don’t know why a problem has developed.

Regardless of why and how they develop, mental health and substance use problems are health problems—just like cancer, arthritis, diabetes and heart attacks.

So why are people with substance use and mental health problems looked upon differently?

Stigma refers to negative attitudes (prejudice) and negative behaviour (discrimination) toward people with substance use and mental health problems.

Stigma includes:

  • having fixed ideas and judgments—such as thinking that people with substance use and mental health problems are not normal or not like us; that they caused their own problems; or that they can simply get over their problems if they want to
  • fearing and avoiding what we don’t understand—such as excluding people with substance use and mental health problems from regular parts of life (for example, from having a job or a safe place to live).

What are the effects of prejudice and discrimination?

Prejudice and discrimination exclude people with mental health and substance use problems from activities that are open to other people.

This limits people’s ability to:

  • get and keep a job
  • get and keep a safe place to live
  • get health care (including treatment for substance use and mental health problems) and other support
  • be accepted by their family, friends and community
  • find and make friends or have other long-term relationships
  • take part in social activities.

Prejudice and discrimination often become internalized by people with mental health and substance use problems.

This leads them to:

  • believe the negative things that other people and the media say about them (self-stigma) have lower self-esteem because they feel guilt and shame.
  • Prejudice and discrimination contribute to people with mental health and substance use problems keeping their problems a secret.

As a result:

  • they avoid getting the help they need their mental health or substance use problems are less likely to decrease or go away.

Additional Resources

Bells Lets Talk – Ways to help; Speak Up
Bells Lets Talk – Ways to help – Tool Kit (How to Speak Up)
Mental Health Commission – Information about Stigma and Discrimination.
CMHA – Information about Stigma and Discrimination.
Mental Health . org – Information about Stigma and Discrimination.
Psychology Today – Information about Stigma
Time To Change – Time to Talk
Mend The Mind – Myths about Mental Illness
CMHA – Myths about Mental Illness
Disordered Living – Myths about Mental Health Medication
Mental Health . gov – Myths about Mental Health Medication

Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness (Article):

Mental Health Stigma: Society, Individuals, and the Profession (Article)

Please Like, Comment, and Share – It is always greatly appreciated.

Rachel Page ♥