What is Mental Health Stigma?
Stigma is a negative stereotype that is assumed about a person or group, based on inaccurate information. This information if often because of poor news reporting or overly dramatized TV shows and movies. Like gossip, stigma is created and spread by repeating stories and inaccurate facts as if they were facts.
Stigma also has a negative effect on behaviour, and can lead to discrimination against an individual or group of people. Discrimination resulting from mental health stigma can mean isolating a person at their school or workplace because they are believed to have mental health problems. Discrimination can also mean refusing to rent to this person or hire them for a job due to perceived mental health issues. Because of stigma, some people do not address or seek treatment for their mental health concerns.
Fortunately, work is being done across Canada to prevent and reverse the effects of stigma and discrimination due to mental health. Campaigns such as Bell’s “Let’s Talk” work to bring mental health concerns into the open during Mental Illness Awareness Week in October. Increased initiatives to start a conversation about mental health leads to more understanding and acceptance of mental health concerns. The Mental Health Commission of Canada has many initiatives to combat the effects of stigma in mental health. Visit their website to learn more.
In Manitoba, the Department of Education and Advanced Learning has created a toolkit for talking about mental health in schools. There is a downloadable pdf version on the website available here: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/specedu/smh/.
The toolkit takes a school-wide approach and outlines four interrelated pillars as its foundation: social and physical environment, teaching and learning, healthy school policy and partnerships and services.
Visit “Links and Resources” to find more credible places to increase mental health knowledge and take action.