Stigma and the resulting discrimination exclude people with mental illnesses from activities that are open to other people. Stigma hurts people in ways that are impossible to measure.
Stigma limits a person’s ability to:
• get and keep a job
• fit in at school without being bullied
• find a safe place to live
• attend college or university
• receive adequate 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
• obtain insurance or loans
• volunteer within their community
• take part in social activities
Prejudice and discrimination often become internalized by people with mental health and substance use problems. This may lead us to self-stigmatize, meaning we:
• believe the negative things that other people and the media say about us
• have lower self-esteem because we 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:
• we avoid getting the help we need
• our mental health or substance use problems are less likely to get better, and in many cases get worse
• we may become isolated, depressed and are at an increased risk of suicide
• youth may experience increased drug abuse, suicide attempts and teen pregnancy
• we may lose hope in our ability to recover
Here are some ways we can begin to reverse the effects and #shatterthestigma !!!
• 1. Know the facts.
Educate yourself about mental health problems. Learn the facts instead of the myths.
• 2. Be aware of your attitudes and behaviour
We’ve all grown up with prejudices and judgmental thinking. But we can change the way we think! See people as unique human beings, not as labels or stereotypes. See the person beyond their mental illness; they have many other personal attributes that do not disappear just because they also have a mental illness.
• 3. Choose your words carefully
The way we speak can affect the way other people think and speak. Don’t use hurtful or derogatory language.
• 4. Educate others
Find opportunities to pass on facts and positive attitudes about people with mental health problems. If your friends, family, co-workers or even the media present information that is not true, challenge their myths and stereotypes. Let them know how their negative words and incorrect descriptions affect people with mental health problems by keeping alive the false ideas.
• 5. 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. We’ve all heard the negative stories. Let’s recognize and applaud the positive ones.
• 6. Support people
Treat people who have 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. If you have family members, friends or co-workers with substance use or mental health problems, support their choices and encourage their efforts to get well.
• 7. Include everyone
In Canada, it is against the law for employers and people who provide services to discriminate against people with mental health and substance use problems. Denying people access to things such as jobs, housing and health care, which the rest of us take for granted, violates human rights.
People with mental health and substance use problems have a right to take an equal part in society. Let’s make sure that happens.