Vol. 14, No.1
A Joint Publication of the Canadian Mental Health Association
W aterloo Regional Branch and W ellington-Dufferin Branch
BIGOTRY AND PREJUDICE...
ROOTS OF STIGMA ?
Stigma has always been an issue some of its citizens, the loss of a quality of life for people with men-
that most mental health profession- rights, increased poverty, homeless- tal health issues that we would not
als believe should be tackled. They ness, unemployment and loneliness. accept for ourselves or our families.
have a common belief that the pun- As a result of our consultation proc- Based on our perceived authority and
ishing result of the stigmatization of ess both Boards have approved the control over people’s lives, often our
people with mental health issues following statements. actions reinforce the stigma society
comes from the lack of knowledge holds, which as advocates for people
and understanding about mental Our Vision: disadvantaged, we state we are try-
health. However, severity of the is- An inclusive community which ing to eliminate. We have come a
sues faced in their every day life, promotes emotional well being, long way in changing our collective
make it unclear whether the symp- human dignity and social justice attitudes, but we still need to recog-
toms the person exhibits, the side and where all people are valued nize that we have taken but a few
effects of treatment or the stigma and have equal opportunities to steps on a long journey to an inclu-
attached to the person labeled participate in all aspects of life. sive community.
with a mental health problem creates
the highest level of disability. Our Mission: by John Jones
To work with the community to
Contributors to this newsletter have provide opportunities for all in-
tried to expose the roots of stigma dividuals to enhance their men-
by showing how our beliefs continue tal health and the quality of
to feed, shape and give strength to their lives and eliminate bigotry,
the labels we shackle to people, prejudice and the resulting stig-
causing great hardship and isolation mas.
Don’t Let Them Die in Vain... 2
for the person and an uncaring, of-
ten hostile environment that blames A Community That is Willing 3
My belief is that the strength of
the person for our attitudes.
these statements as well as the
What’s in a Word? 5
thoughtfully articulated articles in
Waterloo Regional Branch and Wel-
this newsletter will challenge all of us
lington-Dufferin Branch have been Real People, Real Stories: 6
to examine our beliefs and the low
struggling to establish a collective Bigotry and Prejudice in the
and limited expectations we uncon-
vision and mission statement that
sciously impose upon people with
inspires as well as provides direction. Names Will Never Hurt Me... 8
mental health issues. Although it is
We want to also capture what we
difficult to recognize our own bigotry
believe is a core problem that often
and prejudice (as often we see our- Working Together to Create a 10
goes unnamed. We needed to state
selves as champions of people who
that bigotry and prejudice are be-
are disadvantaged), we need to We Can All Make a Difference 11
liefs that significantly impact
closely look at how easily we accept
whether the community accepts, for
DON’T LET THEM DIE IN VAIN...
FROM TRAGEDY TO HOPE
A Sister’s Story problems. People started to under- for me to deal with. They make me
stand the truth behind this tragedy. feel like I should move somewhere
by Ronny Schedler People actually started to feel some where no one knows me and my se-
compassion for my brother. When it cret won’t be revealed. It’s human
July 6th will probably be just another was all over, my brother’s mental nature to fear what we don’t under-
day for most people, but for me it health wasn’t the main issue, as stand. The only way to understand is
will always be the anniversary of a some had tried to claim. to educate ourselves, and learn to
turning point in my life. For reasons accept. Through education and
only known to him, my brother chose Since the tragedy, I have become awareness comes compassion and
this day to end the lives of his family,
very aware of the lack of knowledge understanding. People who struggle
and then took his own life. people have about mental health. with mental health issues need com-
This surprised me because passion, support and acceptance
I believe we all experience from all of us. They need to feel like
mental health struggles at they are a welcome part of our com-
I am the sister of Bill Luft some point in our lives. I munity. If we all open our hearts and
myself have suffered from our minds and learn just a little bit
and we share the same several issues in the past about mental health, we can make
blood. Some people I know year, experiencing reac- our community more complete.
run from me in fear. tions to intense stress,
grief, depression and what I have always considered myself to
they call post-traumatic be open minded and supportive
stress disorder. I was very fortunate when it came to my brother. The
because I had an overwhelming truth is I have learned more about
My brother Bill Luft was a kind, car- amount of support from a very car- his experiences in dealing with his
ing and devoted family man who ing community I live in. I don’t mental health since his death than
loved his wife and children very know where I would be without that during the entire seventeen years he
much. He taught his children about support and acceptance. Not all my had been struggling. I can’t express
the wonders of our universe and experiences have been positive. I how much this learned information
taught them how to experience na- have also felt the stigma attached to has changed by life, my way of
ture. this tragedy. I am the sister of Bill thinking and my compassion for peo-
The media exploited my brother’s Luft and we share the same blood. ple who suffer with mental health
mental health issues with no regard Some people I know run from me in issues. I hope through my tragic ex-
for others who experience mental perience I can help people un-
health difficulties. People lis- derstand the importance of
tened to misleading reports education and acceptance. It
and read the false opinions of took losing the lives of six fam-
the reporters. With a commu- It took losing the lives ily members for me to open
nity desperate for answers, a of six family members my mind to find out what serv-
coroner’s inquest was called. for me to open my mind ices are available for a person
Eleven days and thirty-five wit- and their family.
nesses later the verdict was
to find out what services
in…these deaths were unpre- are available for a person There is a stigma that doesn’t
dictable and unpreventable. and their family. need to be there. My mind is
open and I want to share my
The recommendations result- experience, strength and hope
ing from the inquest called for men- to help remove the stigma.
tal health education to remove the fear.
stigma attached to mental health These experiences are very difficult
A COMMUNITY THAT IS WILLING TO OPEN ITS ARMS
A Mother’s Story They paced the halls in their agitated
states, the lost sons and daughters
by Judith Rosenberg of other parents, whose lives were
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
Volume 14, No. 1, Spring 2001
being snatched away, and stolen Canadian Mental Health Association
It is possible for people who are from them. As I made the trip to visit Newsletter of the Waterloo Regional
dealing with serious mental health my son each day, from Guelph to To- Branch and Wellington-Dufferin
issues to soar above the struggle and ronto, and back again, I pleaded, Branch
stigma, to realize a life of dignity and begged, and cursed, and I de- Each branch of the Canadian Mental Health
accomplishment. This is the story of manded answers. It has taken three Association is a voluntary, not for profit
one such person, the family who years and rivers of tears for the an- agency governed by a community Board of
loves him, and the community that Directors. These branches receive funds
swers to come, and the journey has from such organizations as the Ontario
supports him. been inspiring. Ministry of Health, the United Way, Human
Resources Development Canada, Regional
Municipality of Waterloo, Ministry of
My son’s healing began Community and Social Services, the New
the day he came to Ontario Trillium Foundation, in addition to
Guelph, a community that grants, donations, memberships and fund
I am still the lioness pro- opened it’s arms and took
tecting her cub from the him in as one of it’s own. Statements, opinions and viewpoints
His life in the past had expressed by the writers do not necessarily
ugliness of prejudice. been fraught with daily represent the views, policies or opinions of
the Canadian Mental Health Association.
experiences that contrib-
uted to elevated levels of Waterloo Regional Branch Charitable
stress, anxiety, and para- Registration No. 88964 7442 RR0001
noia. Schools with no sys- Wellington-Dufferin Branch Charitable
From the age of 18 my son began to tem to accommodate the students Registration No. 13061 9934 RR0001
encounter his demons. They kept who needed to work in harmony with Send Comments to:
him from completing his education in their own rhythm; psychiatric facili- John Jones, Executive Director
Fine Arts, and from following his ties that treated the symptoms, then Sandra Parkinson, Community Education
dreams. For ten years he fought released the patient into a cruel and Coordinator
against what was finally to be diag- unforgiving society; a system of po- CO-EDITORS
nosed as Schizo-Affective Disorder. licing people with serious mental Sandra Parkinson, Community Education
Coordinator, CMHA Wellington-Dufferin
I, who had envisioned a glorious life health issues as though they were Branch, 147 Wyndham Street N., Guelph,
for my only child, felt I had received criminals; and media that sensation- Ontario N1H 4E9
a death sentence, as I watched him alized the confused acts of people Phone: (519) 836-6220
be slowly engulfed by psychosis. I Fax: (519) 836-6237
suspended in psychosis. E-Mail: email@example.com
read everything I could about the In Guelph, we found a safe haven
Paul Reeve, Coordinator of Branch
disease. I eavesdropped in stores where my son’s medical needs were Development, CMHA Waterloo Regional
and restaurants for a smattering of of paramount importance, and the Branch and Wellington-Dufferin Branch, 67
information. I knew nothing about first piece to be identified in his jour- King Street E., Kitchener, Ontario N2G 2K4
where to go for help. I was drowning Phone: (519) 744-7645
ney to wellness. Slowly and surely Fax: (519) 744-7066
and there was no lifeline in sight. we built a team that would become E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
our support system, and virtually our
Ultimately, it became necessary to family for many years to come. The
restrain my son in a psychiatric facil- Homewood Health Centre, the Cana- to participate in a research project at
ity where he was surrounded by dian Mental Health Association, the the Homewood, where the effects of
other patients, beautiful young peo- Community Mental Health Clinic, all a new drug were tested over the
ple, who believed they were every- continue to play major roles in my span of one year. The new medica-
thing from Cleopatra to Mohammed. son’s life and mine. He was invited
Continued from Page 3
tion has enabled my son to experi- He has been honoured for his contri- comprised of family allies who re-
ence increased capacity, and to en- butions by The Courage To Come cently lobbied successfully for an
joy an enriched quality of life. Back Award Program, through the ACT team (Assertive Community
Centre For Addic-
Through the Employment Supports tion and Mental
Program of the Ministry of Social Health in Toronto,
Services, my son is engaged in up- and the Award of
grading his computer graphic skills, Excellence, from
and is working toward a future goal the Mood Disorders My son has taken me on the
of employment. CMHA is providing Association in To- most exquisite journey imag-
ongoing support in this area. Their ronto. inable, and through him I have
caring and conscientious staff are
ever available for input and discus- As for me, the di-
come to know and work with
sion. CMHC and it’s Family Education rection of my life exceptional people in the men-
Program, guides families in creating has taken a dra- tal health community.
a healing environment for their fam- matic turn. After my
ily member. Fragmented families initial feelings of
come together in groups, and leave anger, pain, resent-
the process whole again. ment, and deep
sorrow, I found myself more and Treatment), and is currently develop-
Through an outpouring of profes- more isolated from friends and fam- ing a guide book for families and in-
sional support, and personal friend- ily. No one understood, I felt, and I dividuals dealing with first episode
ship, my son is benefiting from the certainly didn’t possess the will or psychosis. These are just two of the
services in his community that he the desire to enlighten them. In real- many groups of organized individuals
most needs. He has been stabilized ity, we who support someone who is who serve tirelessly to heighten
on his medications for three years, dealing with a serious mental health awareness, raise funds, provide
has reclaimed critical pieces of him- issue, have our own distinct society. housing, offer emotional support,
self, and has once again connected We need to grieve, to rant, to cry, to and rejoice in the accomplishments
with his artistic spirit. He continues accept, and finally, to celebrate, and of those we know and love who are
to paint, and touch others through we need to do it together. My son dealing with mental health issues.
his work, which is rich in colour and has taken me on the most exquisite
journey imagin- This is a real story of one young
able, and through man, one mother, and the journey
him I have we have made from a place of de-
come to know and spair, to one of anticipating each
This is a real story of one work with excep- new day. There are still obstacles to
young man, one mother, and tional people in overcome, and battles to be fought.
the mental health I am still the lioness protecting her
the journey we have made
community. Each cub from the ugliness of prejudice.
from a place of despair, to connection I make But I can honestly say that the more
one of anticipating each enriches my life we all speak out, and are willing to
new day. and gives me new share our experiences openly, the
insight. more we see the barriers lifting.
There are still many souls who need
I now belong to to be given the opportunity to thrive
emotion. He is involved in an out- the Schizophrenia Society, a group and flourish in a community that is
reach program for high school stu- that has worked diligently for dec- willing to open its arms. The journey
dents, where he and his peers share ades to dispel the myths and stigma continues for all of us in this commu-
their experiences, in a move toward of mental illness. I am also a mem- nity, to become knowledgeable, to
increasing awareness and encourag- ber of a newly formed association, exhibit respect and concern, and to
ing early detection and intervention. The Family Mental Health Network, accept and celebrate the differences
WHAT’S IN A WORD?
by Jessie Baynham models, diagnoses, disorders and are essential ingredients in providing
dysfunctions - after all, I was going community based services.
As a University of Guelph placement to be working in mental health! That
student with CMHA, I want to share was my first mistake. I quickly real- One of the most important lessons I
my journey through the issue of lan- ized that this organization did not fit have learned at CMHA, is that each
guage and mental health with you. with the medical model of mental one of us at some point in our lives,
health services. I also learned that will experience hardships. Chal-
University students are programmed this organization did fit with me, and lenges are a part of life, and nobody
full of theories, models, diagnoses, my beliefs. can escape that. Inevitably, the
disorders, and dysfunctions. Intui- challenges that present themselves
tively, for me this focus never Throughout my orientation it was to us can compromise our well-
being, including our mental health.
Having learned this valuable lesson, I
have a new perspective on language
and stigma, particularly with respect
to mental health. I now understand
that while it may save time to refer
to someone as “the schizophrenic” or
“the bipolar”, it does not save dig-
nity. So instead of denying the real-
ity that we are all many things, all at
one time - let us embrace and cele-
brate the fact that we are multi-
faceted beings. Let us not stigmatize
individuals in our community simply
because we are not willing to look at
them as people - as complex and
vulnerable as we are.
So, what’s in a word? Identity...
Power...Everything! Let’s challenge
made clear to me that language is an ourselves, and our community to ac-
seemed quite right. Having strug-
immensely important part of CMHA’s cept all people, despite their differ-
gled with mental health issues my-
values and principles of service. It ences. Let’s meet that challenge by
self, it felt wrong to be putting peo-
made sense to me that we can changing our language and thus, our
ple in discrete boxes according to
their “condition”. I always knew this not begin talking about commu-
language was not helpful, but what nity inclusion, acceptance and
other options were there? empowerment while we are de-
fining people by their diagnoses. So, what’s in a word?
When I started in September 2000 By referring to people in this
with CMHA in their Community De- way, we effectively strip them of Identity....
velopment and Education Service, I their personal power. I was be- Power....
had no idea what I was getting into. ginning to understand that com-
This was to be my first real opportu- passion, empowerment, and ac-
nity to start using those theories, ceptance were not options - they
REAL PEOPLE, REAL STORIES...
The following conversations the Employee Assistance Program, beg for a chance to work. I have
resulted from a group of peo- but god help you if you actually use skills and I want to be appreciated
ple coming together to share it…then you become ‘labeled, and for that. Right now, my pride is
their personal experiences they use it against you. What really gone; I need a job that can help me
got me was that I worked at a hu- build up my self-esteem and give me
with stigma in the workplace.
man service organization, and got no a feeling of being self-sufficient.
Despite their struggles, the support. I decided to resign before
group reflected a common more harm was done to me emotion- Ann: If you have a physical prob-
hope for change. ally. I felt if I didn’t quit, they would lem that people can see, there is no
wear me down. It felt so unfair! Be- shame, but because mental health
Kim: Seems to me it’s ‘lip service’; cause I have mental health issues problems are invisible, somehow the
that work places say it’s okay that does not make me incompetent to perception is that it’s our fault, we
someone is struggling with their do my job! are labeled in a negative way. As if
mental health, and that they will we are choosing to struggle on pur-
have support ….but when it comes They want you to be ‘part of the pose!
right down to it there is no support. team’, but one of the ways I was try-
ing to cope was focusing on doing Kim: Silence hurts! If you keep it
I have known people to “pretend” my best in my job. I didn’t have (your mental health issues) a secret
they have a physical problem and anything left over to work on my in- because of feeling shame and guilt,
that’s why they’re away from work. terpersonal relationships with other it makes you feel more isolated and
For me, I ended up feeling isolated co-workers, and I was judged nega- alone. I was told not to talk to any-
and alienated. For example, they tively for that. I needed to priorize one at work about what I was going
‘claim’ the company is down sizing, my energy, but it was how I acted through….so consequently I didn’t
and that is why they have to let you with other staff that was noticed, not get a chance to have any natural
go. that I was still doing my job well. support from others that may have
wanted to understand what I was
Richard: I have had to lie to get a Kim: I felt betrayed. I thought that going through.
job rather than admit to having a if I talked about my issues it would
mental health problem. I perform help. I had eight years of good per- Mary: When I needed time off work
well in the interview, I do well at my formance reviews, I had a baby….I for depression, I had an ally in the
job, but then the “bad days” start to began to struggle….I didn’t have the office and she told me to keep quiet,
kick in and they don’t understand right kind of support….everything that “others won’t respect you….tell
what happened to the guy they just snowballed. They said I had them you are needing time off work
hired. Despite what people might ‘adjustment troubles’. I started to because of your knee injury”. She
think, I don’t want to jump on the feel paranoid that they were out to told me other staff might interpret
“disability bandwagon”, I want a job! ‘break me’. Instead of supporting my experience of depression as a
It’s not just about supporting myself and trying to be accommodating, character flaw. I didn’t share my real
financially; a job gives me a sense of they actually made things harder by story until a year later when I was
self worth and personal value. switching all my work hours around. feeling better. When I wasn’t well, I
I didn’t know what my rights were as didn’t have the strength to stand up
Ann: They made it so hard for me an employee, and I didn’t have the for myself.
at work; I think they were trying to strength to deal with them. I wanted
force me to quit. They just wanted to to believe them when they said they Kim: I had an ally in my doctor; he
‘get rid of me’, so they didn’t have to cared….I was vulnerable….I was bul- said I didn’t have to tell my employer
‘deal with me’. In my work place, I lied. anything. I kept trusting and hoping
know there were a number of people my supervisor’s promise of support
who were dealing with mental health Richard: Mental health issues hap- at work would happen. I had asked
issues. They encourage you to use pen to anyone. It is beneath me to her to keep my confidence about
... BIGOTRY AND PREJUDICE IN THE WORKPLACE
what was going on with me….she
broke that trust….she set me up and
hung me out to dry. At one point, I
thought that if I hurt myself physi- WHAT WILL
cally then I could get time off work HELP
without having to admit my mental
Mary: Increased knowledge about mental health, obtained from a credible
Mary: Work places can be like information source. We also need to talk openly about our experiences. Em-
an army that shoots its wounded. ployers should acknowledge the mental health concerns of their employees,
so people won’t feel alone and isolated.
Richard: I had a note from my psy-
chiatrist that all I needed was one Kim: People need to take a risk and advocate for others who may not have
week off to sort out my medication. the strength to have a voice. If I disclose my issues, then others feel safer
They jumped to conclusions….didn’t to also share.
even try to talk with me….I got a let-
ter in the mail telling me that I was Anne: Don’t use reverse discrimination….don’t assume because I have a
terminated. They treated me like a mental health issue that I won’t be able to do my job. What is the face of
‘broken product’ that you just discard mental health anyway?…fear and lack of awareness leads to negative
if some small part isn’t working the stereotypes.
same as before. I was alone, I lost
my friends at work because they Kim: Employees should be more aware of their rights so they won’t feel so
were afraid and didn’t understand. intimidated. A person shouldn’t feel the pressure to legitimize their mental
health issue by attaching it so firmly to medical services. Staff development
Kim: I am a fighter, but there is an should include more information about mental health issues. There should
emotional cost in having to deal with be a civilized approach where people can feel supported to seek help, just
the stigma of being honest about my like they would for any other kind of problem. A more active approach in
mental health. Employers set a stan- promoting employee wellness that includes mental health. Perhaps a mental
dard… then they judge you by their health committee in the work place that staff could easily identify, where
standard… if you don’t measure up support and access to information about resources to help would be known.
then you are out.
Anne: Supportive co-workers make a big difference, where genuine caring
Richard: It seems like there is a is demonstrated…not just lip service…an open door approach where an em-
black and white view out there…. ployee is not going to feel judged.
your mental health is either ‘okay’,
or you are so ill that you can’t func- Mary: Employers shouldn’t be selective in their support. For example, if
tion. If people felt safe enough to be someone had a fire in their home everyone would be right there to offer
honest, we would know all kinds of help….why is suffering with feelings of depression so much less worthy?
people who are carrying on with their Change the attitude of ‘get rid of them because I can’t see it, I don’t under-
life, and are getting the help they stand it, and I can’t fix it’.
need at that particular time in their
life. Our society doesn’t acknowledge
that mental health is not black and need to feel secure that I can take have….not everyone is going to re-
white, that it’s a continuum that the time I need, and not loose my quire the same things. Employers
changes over the course of our lives. job. I believe there are different is- should not assume people will re-
Mary: When I don’t feel well, I sues and different needs that people quire the same support.
NAMES WILL NEVER HURT ME ... MUCH!
My Personal Reflections status, mental health status, gender, to the reality.
age, and the list goes on and on. A
By Paul Reeve
major issue is the stigma, prejudice Equally, if not more important, is
and damage that accompanies these how people with a label view them-
Have you noticed how much of a
names. The National Stigma Clear- selves. Time and again I’ve seen
powerful impact labels can have on
inghouse has defined stigma as “a people who were labeled “mentally
all our lives? They help to identify us
narrow set of beliefs that damages a ill”, “crippled”, or “disabled”, adopt
and help others to understand a part
broad, diverse group of individuals. the belief and begin acting as though
of who we are. They can also have
As a basis for discrimination, stigma they are the labels. They see them-
robs people of the opportunity to selves as flawed, not able, less than
live, work, and thrive in the commu- what they can be. They don’t think
Most of us define a large part of our-
nity”. Stigma is about disrespect and they are capable of holding a job or
selves by our work and/or the vari-
devaluing people. finishing school and give up. What
ous roles we occupy (parent, secre-
follows are feelings of being hope-
tary, lawyer, cook, teacher, etc.). It’s
I am involved in the area of mental less, helpless, and useless. It is frus-
usually one of the first topics to
health and names such as crazy, trating to see people with so much to
come up in a conversation when we
nuts, schizo, etc. have been around a offer, with so many gifts and talents,
meet someone. Using labels is a con-
long time and continue to be used in who limit themselves because they
venient way of communicating. They
everyday situations. They are sus- are so deeply affected by a diagnosis
signify something important to us as
tained by the images portrayed in or label.
we live our lives and fulfill our
the media and very often are associ-
dreams and take pride in our efforts
ated with fear and the idea that It is at the point when someone is
and accomplishments along the way.
“these people” are violent. And while struggling deeply with an unexpected
the media is greatly responsible for change in their life that they can be
The dark side are the labels we’re all
perpetuating these myths, there is a most sensitive and vulnerable to sug-
familiar with that are given to people
need for all of us to educate our- gestion and the negative influence of
because of their race, ethnicity, cul-
selves as well as the general public labels.
ture, body structure, socioeconomic
IF YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN A LABEL, ASK YOURSELF
Is your label your identity?
Do you introduce yourself by saying what your diagnosis is? By identifying with
the label (and the barriers they represent) you may not see your strengths and
gifts and/or not seek your greater potential.
Are you invested in your “diagnosis”? Do you think living this way is the only op-
tion you have?
Do you focus on what is wrong?
Have you established a focus for your life with set goals and identified barriers to
Does adopting a label create an understanding and/or attitude of dependency in
Do you see yourself as deficient, disabled, diseased?
Continued from Page 8
it over to anyone else. Question learn, explore, and challenge: edu-
For people who experience difficult whether your experience is an cate yourself (libraries, schools), join
life circumstances, I would challenge “illness” or something else. The a self-help group, professionals, tra-
and encourage you to question the medical model is one way to view/ ditional practices, non-traditional/
impact any label is having on you. interpret your experience. Are there alternative practices, political activ-
Check out the facts and realities of others? Therapies can help in many ism, etc.
your experience. Gain knowledge areas (spiritual, emotional, cognitive,
and understanding of your condition behavioral, sexual) where a person I hope these ideas will be discussed
and take responsibility for your life. lacks understanding and skills. This and debated because that can lead
lack is often more related to our up- to a better understanding and more
I believe that everyone is worthy respectful relations. Words are a
and capable of managing their powerful tool and critical to ex-
life in a way that leads to a ful- pressing concepts and beliefs
filling existence. Being worthy Just remember “NORMAL” is that lead to better understand-
means recognizing our value and only a setting on a dryer. ing. Whatever the meaning,
the value of every person. Being most important is that all of us
capable of managing our life in- use words that are respectful of
cludes being able to ask for and re- bringing than any “illness”. the person and communicate accu-
ceive help when we want it, and in- rate and useful information that is
volving professionals to help us real- There is a host of scientific literature free of prejudice.
ize our goals and dreams. addressing the impact of labeling
It is most important to be construc- and stigma. One of the more noted The idea is that you don’t have to
tively critical in our thinking and authors is Erving Goffman who have a significant health problem to
evaluate the information taken in. coined the phrase “spoiled identity”. be affected by the power of words -
Challenge current thinking and your- There are many books suggesting we can all look to how we use lan-
self. Explore and clarify anything you different models and approaches to guage and the impact it has.
don’t understand. dealing with stigma.
Remember “NORMAL” is only a set-
This is a challenge to you to take re- ting on a dryer. So let’s all honour
sponsibility for your life and not give There are many vehicles for you to and celebrate our uniqueness and
Use the “S.T.O.P.” criteria to help recognize your beliefs and ac-
tions, as well as those of others, that perpetuate stigma towards
people who experience mental health issues.
It’s easy - just ask yourself if what you hear or say:
Stereotypes people negatively?
Trivializes or belittles people?
Oppresses people through domination
Patronizes people by treating them as if they were not as good
by Sandra Parkinson it difficult to get the help someone a sense of contributing their skills to
may need. Families also experience their community, and someone to
the effects of stigma, which leads to care about.
You finally decide to get help…..and feelings of guilt and worry over what
then it seems like you’re punished for others may think. Studies have We all have those basic needs. Our
it—shamed, labeled and discrimi- shown that Canadians felt the impact struggles may be different at differ-
nated against. of stigma was the main barrier to ent times in our life---but one thing
seeking help. It can even be more is certain we need one another—we
That scenario could be true for any- difficult to live with than the experi- need a sense of community to en-
one; national statistics estimate that ence of the mental health issue itself. hance the quality of all our lives.
one in three people will at some time
in their life experience a significant Together each of us can help pro-
mental health issue. Not to mention mote a community that acknowl- While the importance of treatment
how many more lives are touched edges the value and unique contribu- and support services for mental
because we are a friend, co-worker tions of every citizen, health is vital, people cannot build a
or family member. Mental health is regardless of what mental health is- life around them. We all need to feel
an important part of everyone’s life; sues they may face. included as part of our community so
no one is immune from circum- that we are able to develop natural,
stances that impact on our mental informal connections with those who
health. can help us get through the daily
challenges we all face.
Historically, people with mental
health issues have often felt How can we promote an Inclusion is about moving beyond
shunned by family, friends, em- inclusive, and welcom- services, beyond relating to people
ployers and the wider community. in terms of their difficulties. We
Although there have been changes
ing community? must challenge ourselves to shift
toward more support and inclusion, our view from seeing some as a
the public still fears what it doesn’t “client”, or “case”, and see people
understand. as they deserve to be seen - as a
community citizen. A citizen not de-
A welcoming community responds to fined by deficiencies but rather cele-
The stigma associated with a per- the needs of all people, recognizes brated for their individual capacities.
son’s mental health can take many everyone has the right to equal op- To embrace inclusion, a community
forms: the written word, the spoken portunities, and the freedom to be- needs to accept diversity and dem-
word, a person’s attitude or behav- come a part of their community in onstrate tolerance.
iour, and even physical violence. every way that matters to them. It
Whatever the situation, it causes doesn’t have to be complicated….
people to withdraw, preventing early people need a place they can call
recognition of struggles, and making home, something meaningful to do,
WE CAN ALL MAKE A DIF-
We can recognize that a label or diagnosis tells us
little about what to expect from the person with The following anonymous verse speaks to
that label. It does not tell us about their capacity the humanity every community should
for friendship or creativity or accomplishments. It strive for. It brings to light the common
does not tell us clearly about his or her specific myths that someone experiencing a men-
struggles or potential for recovery. tal health issue may face, but from a per-
spective that we can relate to.
We can learn more about mental health and the
issues that affect our mental health. The better
informed we are the better we are able to resist
the inaccurate and negative stereotypes that are
so common. I would never blame the parents or the
family of a person who develops kidney
We can listen to people who have experienced a
mental health issue. They are in the best position
to tell us how it is affecting their lives.
I would never describe a person with
We can respond to stigmatizing material that por- multiple sclerosis as emotionally weak.
trays people with mental health issues in negative
ways. Write a letter to the editor, TV sponsor or I have never heard a newscaster de-
movie producer. scribe a criminal as slightly asthmatic.
We can speak up when someone tells a joke that I have never heard that a person with
ridicules, or makes disrespectful comments, we arthritis has a diminished learning and
can let them know that this is hurtful and that we
find such comments offensive and harmful.
We can watch our own use of language. Many of I have never asked a person with can-
us, without intending harm, use terms and ex- cer to “snap out of it”.
pressions that actually perpetuate stigma. We
may use a generic label that actually isolates peo- I would never describe a person with
ple as a separate identified group such as “the heart disease as lazy because of the
mentally ill”, referring to individuals as their limitations of their condition.
medical diagnosis (a “schizophrenic”), or using a
psychiatric diagnosis as a metaphor for other I would never fear someone with diabe-
situations. This is not only stigmatizing but inac- tes because they might be contagious.
We can talk openly about mental health issues.
I would never say that a person with
The more our struggles remain hidden, the more leukemia is to blame for his or her own
people believe it is shameful and needs to be con- problems.
cealed. Letting others see people with significant
mental health issues who are resourceful, articu- I would never expect to go to a theatre
late, creative, and who are familiar to us as valued to watch a movie based on the unusual
friends or co-workers, is a powerful way to fight antics of a person with cerebral palsy.
And most of all, we can put people first...we can
emphasize a person’s abilities, not their limita-
For More Information/Support, Call or Visit
the Centre for Mental Health nearest you:
Kitchener Waterloo Guelph
67 King Street E 147 Wyndham Street N
Kitchener, ON N2G 2K4 Guelph, ON N1H 4E9
Ph: (519) 744-2049 Ph: (519) 836-6220
Cambridge Ayr Erin Orangeville
9 Wellington Street, Unit 3 76 Stanley Street 45 Main Street, Box 786 295A Broadway
Cambridge, ON N1R 3Y4 Ayr, ON N0B 1E0 Erin, ON N0B 1T0 Orangeville, ON L9W 1L2
Ph: (519) 740-7782 Ph: (519) 632-9737 Ph: (519) 833-2418 Ph: (519) 938-8776
c/o 147 Wyndham Street North,
and Waterloo Regional Branch