are the CURE for STIGMA

This week is both Mental Health Week and Children’s Mental Health Week. Could there possibly be a better time to confront what ails us? Yes, research proves one in five of us will suffer from mental illness. No family is immune. What’s sick, though, is the stigma that prevents people from talking about it, seeking treatment and living better. 

Basically, the word stigma means brand or label – a label that causes fear, shame and discrimination. It’s rooted in lack of knowledge and understanding. 

People living with mental health issues report the stigma can be worse than the illness.

℞ for a Healthier Community: Changing Directions, Changing Lives, Canada’s first mental health strategy, was released Tuesday, May 8, by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). Its aim is to improve mental health outcomes for all Canadians. That starts with changing minds.
“Mental health problems and illnesses affect us all – mother, father, child, friend, colleague,” notes MHCC president Louise Bradley. She says stigma prevents mental health problems and illnesses from receiving the attention and support other serious health issues do.

Attention, PleaseHere are the FACTS 

  • Mental health problems and illnesses are more widespread than cancer or heart disease.
  • The economic cost is over $50 billion yearly in Canada.
  • Onset is early. Most people dealing with mental health challenges say symptoms started in childhood.
  • It hurts. Nearly 20 percent of young people 15 to 24 may be struggling with a mental health issue that “severely disrupts their ability to function”, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.  
  • The workplace feels it too: More than one in five workers are experiencing mental health problems, resulting in lost productivity, absenteeism and disability claims. 
  • “In 2010, mental health conditions were responsible for 47 percent of all approved disability claims in the federal civil service,” the MHCC blueprint reveals.

The dark-suited men heading up the steps at Parliament Hill behind you? The piano teacher? The police officer? The community leader? The teacher, coach, volunteer or grandpa? The neighbour lugging groceries from the trunk to the house and the kid walking down the street to school? Look around. People living with mental health problems are all around you. 

The real cause for shame? Only one in three adults and as few as one in four youngsters report seeking help.
Stigma is a barrier to health care and to the health and well-being of the community. One antidote is public education.
Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, anorexia nervosa, obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum depression, addiction, phobia… these are words to describe health conditions, not people.  Mental illnesses are treatable. People can get better and live well. Most recover. 

Prevention and early intervention can make a critical difference in health outcome. The more we know, the more we talk about it, the more we support our kids and families and community to be well, the better off we all will be.  

What do you think?  Let’s talk.

  Pam Dillon

  Reach me at Pam@coylepublishing.com.

  Follow Ottawa Family Living at @OttawaFamily.

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