January: Let’s talk about stigma

Let’s Talk About Mental Health Stigma

On behalf of the EPC team, we’d like to wish everyone a happy 2022! I hope everyone is doing well and enjoyed the holidays – or at least found some time to rest and unwind. Traditionally, bringing in the New Year is a time for self-reflection and a time to establish goals or “resolutions”. However, given these seemingly endless trying times, it may be more appropriate to discuss a more large-scale topic pertaining to mental health – stigma.

You’ve probably noticed that people are generally more willing to share about their back pain injuries rather than their feelings of anxiety – or more willing to talk about their seasonal allergies rather than their feelings of depression. People are also generally more inclined to call in sick due to a cold, rather than call in sick because they need a personal day – or even more likely to seek treatment from a professional for a sprained wrist than to seek help for unresolved past trauma.

Why is that? In short, the answer is often in relation to mental health stigma.

But what is stigma?

“Stigma is a set of negative beliefs and prejudices about a group of people, as well as negative behaviours towards groups of people. Many people face stigma because of their race, religion, gender, sexuality, economic situation, and a variety of other things.”

Sadly, mental health seems to have all kinds of stigmas attached to it. In fact, mental health stigma is so prevalent that according to the CAMH “46% of Canadians thought people use the term ‘mental illness’ as an excuse for bad behaviour, and 27% said they would be fearful of being around someone who suffers from serious ‘mental illness’.”

This can often manifest in sentences ranging from “that person is just crazy” or “why are they sleeping all the time, they’re so lazy” to perhaps other sentences such as “just pick yourself up” or “you have so much to be grateful for, you should just be happy”.

While these aforementioned sentences may sometimes be well intended, they can be quite hurtful and the ramifications of mental health stigmas are real. Stigma and discrimination (whether it be overt or covert) can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. Evidence shows that stigma can result in the following consequences and more;

  • Loss of self-esteem, feelings of being devalued.
  • Difficulties making friends and having long-term relationships.
  • Problems obtaining employment and finding housing.
  • Problems participating in social activities.
  • Delays in seeking treatment and receiving appropriate medical care.
  • Financial stress and economic hardship.
  • Reduced life expectancy as a result of these multiple stressors.

Luckily, the world seems to be shifting towards a more inclusive and empathetic take when it comes to mental health. Next Wednesday, the 26th of January 2022, is Bell’s Let’s Talk Day So, I’d like to end this newsletter with ways we can help break the stigma;

  • Educate yourself and others to challenge negative stereotypes about mental health.
  • Head over to this site to learn terms to use instead of ‘mental illness’.
  • Be aware of your own behaviour and attitudes towards mental ‘illness’.
  • Use accurate and sensitive words in communications with – and about – people. For example, we can say “someone with schizophrenia” rather than “schizo”.
  • Support those living with mental health issues by respecting their dignity and demonstrating respect.
  • Be inclusive. It is against the law in Canada for employers and service providers to discriminate against people with mental health and substance use disorders. When people are denied access to things such as jobs, housing and health care, this violates their human rights (Ontario Human Rights Commission).

Whether it be for yourself or a loved one, I’ve included a list of helpful resources below. Should you like more information or resources, feel free to give us a call at 514-758-7792 or email us at info@epcenter.ca

Once again, wishing you all the best in 2022! Remember to be kind to yourselves.

Kind regards,

Émilie Rose Casey