Let’s Face This – Confront the Stigma of Mental IllnessEmail This Post
In an effort to confront the stigma of mental illness Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre has in partnership with Manulife Financial have launched a web-based initiative to host their “Let’s Face This – Confront the Stigma of Mental Illness” campaign. Mental Illness is now estimated to personally affect over 10 million Canadians.
October 5th – October 11th is Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada. According to the letsfacethis.ca website, 0ne in three Canadians will experience a mental illness during their lifetime.
Sunnybrook launches Let’s Face This campaign to confront the stigma of mental illness
Psychiatrists at Sunnybrook estimate 1 in 3 Canadians will be personally affected by mental illness in their lifetime.
TORONTO, October 6, 2008 – Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre today launched Let’s Face This – Confront the Stigma of Mental Illness, an innovative web-based initiative to address the growing public health issue. Psychiatrists at Sunnybrook now estimate that mental illness personally affects more than 10 million Canadians.
Developed in partnership with Manulife Financial, the campaign website let’sfacethis.ca offers visitors the opportunity to post their photo and message on a virtual campaign tree. With each new photo added, the tree will grow, symbolizing growing awareness, education, fundraising and hope for those suffering from a mental illness.
Even with all the knowledge available today, mental illness is still a very difficult topic for the majority of people to discuss,” said Dr. Anthony Levitt, Chief of Psychiatry at Sunnybrook. “Let’s Face This will help us to work together to confront the stigma surrounding mental illness. And just as importantly, it will help raise much needed funds for research that will lead to finding the causes of mental illness and developing new treatments.”
A grassroots campaign designed to help raise awareness, education and funds for mental health research, the campaign coincides with Mental Illness Awareness Week, taking place from October 5 – 11. In addition to the website, teams of photographers will hit the streets of Toronto, collecting photos and messages and providing information about mental illness. There will also be promotional activities with local community associations and on online social media such as Facebook.
“Manulife Financial is proud to partner with Sunnybrook on this campaign to help educate Canadians about mental illness and reduce the stigma associated with it,” says Paul Rooney, President & CEO, Manulife Canada. “And by making a donation, individuals can support world-class mental health research that offers hope for better understanding of mental illness and the development of new treatments.”
Any time that mental illness generally, and its stigma, specifically, are publicized in efforts to create and foster more public awareness I think that’s a really important and good thing. I wonder though about people posting their pictures. Why? Well the reality of the stigma of mental illness is such that, still, today, in our society, there are many who have to fear for their careers, jobs, maybe even housing, if those around them were to know more about their individual experience of and/or struggles with any form of mental illness.
Would that posting one’s picture to raise awareness for mental illness didn’t in and of itself carry the risk of stigma. The fact is – it does. I may post my picture. I haven’t decided yet. However, I have always been able to be open with my past and the mental illness I had because I have always been in the trenches, personally in my own life, of facing and living with the consequences, at times, of the stigma of mental illness.
I think it’s great and important that we have Mental Health Awareness Week this week in Canada. But, truthfully, we need much more on-going and equally visible efforts to combat the stigma and perception and misunderstandings about – and even fear of – mental illness.
This is an area where the media still needs to step it up big time to make a difference. I applaud the Globe and Mail’s massive information, education, and awareness-raising series Breakdown – Canada’s Mental Health Crisis called Face It, Fund It, Fix It. I highly recommend reading it, if you haven’t already. While it is a great series that I think had some lasting impact notably one of the most stigmatized mental illness, Borderline Personality Disorder was not one of the illnesses featured in this series.
Common to both The Globe and Mail’s series of articles about our mental health crisis and the need for awareness and addressing stigma and the current Sunnybrook-Manulife web-based initiative and campaign to raise public awareness in and effort to lessen the stigma of mental illness is the concept of facing that this stigma is very real.
“Let’s Face This” or “Face it, Fund It, Fix It” are both important awareness-raising breakthroughs in what is an often screamingly-silent absence of coverage of and discourse about mental illness, and specifically the stigma that still surrounds it.
I am sad to say though that these two very public efforts are but a pebble’s ripple in the waters of society that need to experience a tidal wave proportion of continual focus, fund raising, research and treatment.
There needs to be much more effective and longer-term treatment funded by our Health Care System. Mental health needs should be addressed as seriously both from a funding perspective and a treatment availability perspective as physical ailments are.
In many cases mental illness affects the lives of so many much more profoundly than many physical illnesses. There is a tremendous cost to continuing to further the stigma surrounding mental illness. A cost that society bears not only in the cost of crisis intervention, prescription plan coverage, but also in terms of lost productivity.
Many people with various types of mental illness could work and want to work, could be more productive workers in our society if it weren’t for the stigma of mental illness that sees many employers not wanting to extend themselves to making the workplace much more open and accomodating to those who in spite of a mental illness have intelligence, skills, and abilities that are often overlooked or dismissed in the haze of ignorance that is the stigma of mental illness.
© A.J. Mahari, October 9, 2008 – All Rights Reserved.
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