If we have any type of illness or broken bone, our natural instinct is to seek treatment. When it comes to mental health, however, one study found that, globally, as many as 70% of people with mental illness did not receive treatment – and there are many factors that go into why someone might avoid or delay getting that help – including lack of knowledge surrounding mental illnesses, lack of knowledge surrounding how to access treatment and the resources available to them, as well as the stigmatizing of those diagnosed with mental illness constantly have to face, which can lead to feelings of shame, fear and hopelessness. Stigma also commonly leads to discrimination, which can be subtle or direct. For example, someone might make a negative remark about mental illness, or they may try to intentionally avoid you because they might consider you unstable or dangerous due to having a mental illness. In addition to causing one to avoid seeking help, the harmful effects associated with stigma also include causing one to have fewer opportunities for things like work, schooling, or social activities, as well as an increase in experiencing harassment, bullying, and physical violence.
When it comes to reducing stigma, it’s important to be educated about mental illness. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has a large course site that features different tutorials on mental health, including depression and addiction, that you can find by clicking here. It’s also important for everyone to be aware of their attitudes (such as judgemental thinking about mental illness) and actions surrounding mental health, and to choose words carefully (i.e. avoid using negative adjectives when discussing mental health conditions) – as depending on how one speaks about mental health, this can have either a negative or a positive impact on those who are struggling. If you know someone who is having a difficult time, always remember to show compassion and offer them as much support and encouragement as you can.
While you may be reluctant to reach out for help, don’t let stigma or the fear of being labelled with a mental illness prevent you from getting the help that you need. Speaking to someone you trust, such as a friend or a family member, is important in getting the support you need. It’s also equally as important to discuss how you’re feeling with your physician. By reaching out for help, this puts you on the right path towards identifying the underlying cause of what might be troubling you, receiving a proper diagnosis, and getting the right treatment. It can also be helpful to join a support group which are offered by various local programs and are not only available to those who are diagnosed with a mental illness, but also available for families and to the general public. Speaking out against stigma and expressing yourself in writing or by speaking at events can also be therapeutic, as well as a way to ingrain hope and courage in individuals who may be facing similar challenges, and a way to help further educate the public about the importance of taking care of their mental health.
If you or someone you know is struggling, immediate help is available from the below resources:
• Crisis Service Canada – www.crisisservicecanada.ca
1-833-456-4566 (or by texting 45645)
• Kids Help Phone – www.kidshelpphone.ca
1-800-668-6858 (or by texting “CONNECT” to 686868)