“Mental health is set aside as that other kind of health care we don’t want to talk about.” – Asante Haughton, one of three youth featured in the Ontario Shores produced film “Talk To Someone: You’re Not Alone.”
Queen’s University researcher Dr. Heather Stuart says the majority of anti-stigma campaigns are not evidence based and few are evaluated. In fact, her research suggests that we may even have to retrench and undo the damage some of these past campaigns have created.
That includes discussion of mental disorders as a brain disease. Her research shows that such descriptors actually increase social distance, not close it.
Speaking at the Ontario Hospital Association HealthAchieve on Monday, Stuart says protests over stigma can “backfire,” resulting in greater polarization of the issue. Stigma should be regarded as a “transgenerational problem.”
“You can’t sell social inclusion like you sell soap,” she told the packed conference room.
We’re all part of it, she says, including families and the mentally ill themselves who create a “self-stigma.” That includes self-blame.