Removing the stigma around mental health issues can be difficult

University Initiative Hopes to Reduce Stigma of Mental Health Issues

In their lifetime, one in five Canadians will have mental health issues; it’s estimated that two-thirds of those people won’t seek help. A stigma is a negative misconception based on a personal trait that is based on stereotypes rather than fact.

This can include:

  • misunderstandings about the causes of the disease
  • questioning whether treatment is needed
  • excluding people from activities out of fear or avoidance

Stigmas are Deeply Rooted in Mental Health Issues

An article from notes that from clinical depression to addiction, old stigmas and misconceptions hold firm – regardless of available resources, effective treatments, media coverage and other publicity.

People living with mental health issues fear being labelled by stereotypes, and many people have significant misunderstandings about what mental health issues are and what treatments may be needed.

Surveys in the U.S. have shown that even medical professionals are affected. “Stigma is quite prevalent in the medical community just as it is in the general population,” Dr. Andriyka Papish, a fourth‐year psychiatric resident at the University of Calgary, said in a news release.

The Mind Course Targets Healthcare Providers

Dr. Papish decided to go into psychiatry after participating in a program at the University of Calgary called The Mind Course.

Mandatory for second-year medical students, the course aims to reduce the prejudice and discrimination associated with mental illness. Over a course of three weeks, student hear from practicing psychiatrists and people who’ve experienced mental illness. They also visit a hospital to see how doctors treat and interact with psychiatric patients.

“The Mind Course ignites a curiosity in students to understand mental health,” explained Dr. Papish.

Anti-stigma Program Could Spread

The Mind Course is now being evaluated by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) as part of a 10‐year anti‐stigma and anti‐discrimination initiative called Opening Minds.  Launched in 2009, one aspect of the initiative is to look at programs like this one to evaluate their effectiveness, with the possibility of implementing the course in other parts of the country.

We Focus on Respect

At Stevenson, Waplak and Associates, one of our goals is to create an environment where anyone we treat feels comfortable and respected. For a confidential discussion about yourself or someone you care about, please contact us.