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      What Is Stigma?                                 What Can We Do To Challenge
      The word ‘stigma’ means a sign of               Stigma?
      shame or disgrace. Stigma is a mark             Individually we might consider trying the
      placed upon you that can affect                 following:
      people’s view of you, and even your              • Learning about the various mental
      view of yourself, for the rest of your               illnesses
      life. There is a stigma associated with          • Talking and thinking about mental
      mental illness. Stigma can result in a               illness like you would about any other
      person being denied full and equal                   illness
      social standing with another person.             • Challenging and questioning our own
      There is a real history of prejudice,                attitudes towards mental illness
      misunderstanding, confusion and                  • Challenging those around us when
      mystery surrounding mental illness. It               they reinforce the myths, stereotypes
      is a kind of prejudice which often                   and misconceptions that surround
      begins with the application of a label,              mental illness
      that distinguishes ‘normal’ or ‘well’            • Expressing your dissatisfaction to
      people from ‘sick’ or ‘abnormal’                     media outlets that represent mentally
      people. Stigma can result in a person                ill people in stereotyped or
      being denied full and equal social                   stigmatising ways
      standing with another person.
                                                      As a community, we can try to:
      What harm does stigma do?
                                                       •    Eliminate discrimination against
      Stigma adjoining mental illness causes                people with mental illness in the
      people with mental illness and their                  workplace, schools and in community
      families and friends to hide the illness.             services
      as admittance and acceptance of the
                                                       •    Become more educated about mental
      illness leave them feeling at times                   illness
      ashamed, isolated and alone
                                                       •    The Disability Discrimination Act
                                                            1992 makes it illegal to discriminate
         •   Employers will not hire them                   against someone because of a
             (too much trouble)
                                                            disability. This includes mental
         •   No one wants to be their friend                illness.
             (out of fear or apathy)
                                                       •    Family, carers and friends of people
         •   Families give up on them (out                  with a mental illness are also
             of desperation and exhaustion)                 protected from discrimination within
                                                            this Act
      Many people with mental illness try to
      hide their illness in an attempt to avoid
      the inevitable rejection by society. Until
      we all learn to accept these people and              “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of,
      lend a helping hand, we are all stuck                but stigma and bias shame us all “
      with the stigma.

    ¤ Navigators Guide for Family and Friends New-October 2010
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  The stigma surrounding mental illness           The Mental Health Information Service
  has not occurred overnight; stereotypes,        is part of NSW Association for Mental
  myths and misconceptions can take               Health.
  years to develop. It will take time to
  eradicate much of the stigma in our             They operate a telephone information and
  society, especially if we don’t think it        referral service between 9am - 5pm
  affects us personally. There is much we         Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and
  can do to actively challenge stigma, and        between 12.30 pm – 5 pm on Wednesdays.
  everyone can play a role.                       They have access to a comprehensive
                                                  database of mental health services, support
                                                  groups, community services etc. They also
   Stigmawatch is a program of the                produce a mental health services directory
   SANE Media Centre which works                  for NSW called the “Way Ahead
   with, and supports, media                      Directory”.
   professionals and the mental health
   sector to promote accurate and
   responsible portrayal of mental
   illness and suicide. The centre is
   supported by the Australian
   Government as part of the
   Mindframe Initiative .
   Contact details: (03) 9682 5933 or

  Breaking Stigma means
                                                   The Newcastle Mental Health Week “Walk
    •   Throwing away your negative                of Pride” was introduced by ARAFMI
        thoughts about a homeless                  Hunter and has been an annual event since
        person walking down the street             2005. The “Walk of Pride” aims to de-
    •   Not complaining about your tax             stigmatise mental illness and promote social
        dollars used to improve mental             inclusion. All members of the community
        health services                            are invited to get involved and offer support
    •   Volunteering your time once per            Contact ARAFMI (02) 49612842
        month for the cause of mental
    •   Supporting friends and relatives
        who have been diagnosed with a
        mental illness

¤ Navigators Guide for Family and Friends New- October 2010

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