People with a mental illness say that the social stigma attached to mental health conditions and the discrimination they experience can make their hard times worse and make it harder to recover.
Mental illness is common. It affects millions of people, and their friends, families, work colleagues and society in general.
Even though so many people are affected, there is a strong social stigma attached to mental illness, and people with mental health problems can experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives.
Stigma and discrimination from society, family, friends and employers can make a person feel worse.
Society has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people. Many people believe that people with a mental illness are violent and dangerous, when in fact they are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming other people.
Stigma and discrimination can also delay or impede their getting help and counseling, and their recovery. Social isolation, poor housing, unemployment and poverty are all linked to mental illness.
Stigma and discrimination can trap people in a cycle of illness.
The situation is exacerbated by the media. Media reports often link mental illness with violence, or portray people with mental health problems as dangerous, criminal, evil, or very disabled and unable to live normal, fulfilled lives. This is far from the case.
It is illegal to discriminate directly or indirectly against people with mental health problems in public services and functions, access to premises, work, education, associations and transport. But we know that discrimination exists.
AMHCA has developed a general and comprehensive tool kit to address mental health stigma. The toolkit on stigma issues, will include proposed op-eds, and letters to the editor that clinical mental health counselors, other mental health providers, and consumers can use and edit to reflect their personnel experience and style, and submit to various media outlets.
If we are to improve the mental health culture of our nation, we need to begin by fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness, ensuring that people can get the help they need, without fear of condemnation or abuse.
With one in five of us affected every year, reducing stigma across all conditions is an important issue for everyone. Greater understanding provides hope.
We hope this campaign provides more understanding on the impact of stigma and the need to eradicate it.