Stigma – The Hidden Killer in Our Society
What is stigma?
Join TELL in fighting back against the cost of stigma. Mental illness is one of the biggest health problems facing our societies. Roughly one in four people will experience a mental health problem during their lifetime, yet mental illness still remains greatly misunderstood and feared. It rarely receives the resources it requires or the respect it deserves.
Only a quarter of those who experience a mental illness reach out for support. Most fear that others will judge them negatively, and that the shame they will bring upon themselves and their family is too great. Many mental illnesses first appear when a person is young and may look different in children. Mental illnesses and stigma impacts the way young people learn and build skills. This can lead to challenges in the future, and sadly many are not receiving the help they need. People living with mental illness often say the stigma and discrimination associated with their illness can be worse than the mental illness itself.
Stigma and discrimination against those living with mental illness is widespread and reaches into schools and institutions of learning, employment, housing, health care and media. It causes shame, prejudice and hopelessness, leaves many trying to manage the problem on their own, either suffering in silence, or masking the pain with drugs or alcohol.
Mental illness is treatable, and recovery is possible when education, family, peer and community supports are available and used.
What can you do to make a difference?
You can help TELL in the battle against mental health discrimination and stigma.
If you notice any medium, radio, book, website, television coverage, etc that is promoting unhelpful or inaccurate information that is not true, challenge their myths and stereotypes. Let them know how their negative words and incorrect descriptions affect people with substance use and mental health problems, and keep alive the false ideas. However, if you notice information that is promoting informative, balanced, and supportive information, please let us know and make a noise.
Know the facts
Educate yourself about mental health problems—what can bring them on, who is more likely to develop problems and how to prevent or reduce the severity of problems.
Choose your words carefully
The way we speak can affect the way other people think and speak. Use accurate and sensitive words when talking about people with mental health and substance use problems. For example, speak about “a person with schizophrenia” rather than “a schizophrenic.”
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. 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.
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. If you hear positive stories of people in our community, please share them with us.
Together we can make a difference and change lives for the better.