The stigma that exists for someone living with mental illness affects many areas of life. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, stigma is the negative stereotype, and discrimination is the behaviour that results from this 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.
Heather Stuart is one of Canada’s most renowned experts on stigma and how it relates to mental health. On Bell Let’s Talk Day, she stopped by the Your Morning studio to talk about it.
MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA
The media and entertainment industry play a key role in shaping public opinions about mental health and illness. People with mental health conditions are often depicted as dangerous, violent and unpredictable.
THE EFFECTS OF STIGMA
There are significant consequences to the public misconceptions and fears. Stereotypes about mental health conditions have been used to justify bullying and some people have been denied adequate housing, health insurance and jobs due to their history of mental illness.
The stigma associated with mental illness also means many people lose their self-esteem and have difficulty making friends. Also, the stigma attached to mental health conditions is so pervasive that people who suspect that they might have a mental health condition are unwilling to seek help for fear of what others may think.
HOW TO STOP IT
The words you use can make all the difference. Instead of staying “schizo” or “crazy”, say “person with schizophrenia” or “person with a mental illness”.
Knowing the facts and myths about mental illness can be a great way to help end the stigma. The Bell Let’s Talk website has a lot useful resources.
A simple act of kindness can make a huge difference. Whether it’s a smile, being a good listener or an invitation for coffee and a chat, these simple acts will let someone know you’re there for them.
Listen and ask
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. Mental illness touches us all in some way directly or through a friend, family member or colleague. Most people with mental health issues can and do recover, but talking about it is an important first step.
It’s time we started talking openly about our mental health. Join the conversation on Bell Let’s Talk Day, January 30, and help end the stigma around mental illness. For every text message (not iMessage) sent and mobile or long-distance call made by Bell Canada, Bell Aliant and Bell MTS customers, Bell will donate five cents to Canadian mental health initiatives. The same goes for anyone sending a tweet using #BellLetsTalk, watching the Bell Let’s Talk Day video on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat, or using the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter. But talking about it is just the first step: Visit letstalk.bell.ca for more ways you can effect change and build awareness around mental health.