5.1 THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS

MENTAL ILLNESS

Key Messages

Lambton residents report lower levels of social stigma about mental illness than the Ontario average.

Many feel that the stigma of mental illness has improved in the last few years and that there is greater awareness of mental health as a health issue.

Males, and people over 65 years of age, are more likely to hold stigmatizing views related to mental illness.

“I really don’t talk to many people about it because quite often I feel judged.”

– Community member

“I find stigma to be more prevalent in the client’s own identification of their illness. Once diagnosed with mental illness, some feel as if they will not recover, they will not work and they will not lead a “normal” life. I find it challenging to encourage clients to seek meaningful occupation outside of their home as a result.”

– Mental health care worker

Stigma

Stigma refers to negative attitudes and negative behaviour toward people with substance use and mental health problems (CAMH, n.d.). It is important for us to understand the level of stigma that is faced by Lambton residents with mental illness, and the perception of stigma from the general population.

Lambton residents generally recognize that mental illness is a real condition and that people with mental illness cannot just “snap out of it.” However, there exists a level of uncertainty and stigma in thinking that people with mental illness are dangerous (16% neither agree nor disagree, and 16% agree that they are dangerous). Male respondents, as well as respondents 65 years and older, were more likely to hold stigmatizing views about mental illness.

Percentage who strongly agree or agree with each statement

A mental illness is a real medical illness

LAMBTON 0
Ontario 0

People with a mental illness could not snap out if it if they wanted

Lambton 0
Ontario 0

People with a mental illness are not dangerous*

Lambton 0
Ontario 0

*Lambton significantly higher than Ontario

Among some mental health service users, there was a view that society’s attitudes towards poor mental health or mental illness have improved over recent years. People felt that there is more awareness of mental health issues and less stigmatization of those affected by mental illness nowadays which means more individuals seek help.

There is still scope for further eradicating stigma and misconceptions attached to mental health. Some service users admitted to being afraid or had direct experience of being “judged”, “ridiculed” or seen as a “danger to society” because of their mental health conditions.

“It was much easier to be mentally ill when I was battling my mental health challenges in high school. People avoided me and shunned me because I was different. People care more about another’s mental health these days.”

– Community member

“There is definitely societal stigma attached to mental health. […] If I were to expose myself to the judgement of others would I be accepted the same? Would they see my emotions as justifiable or true or would they see them only as the mental illness? I am a well-educated individual who has borderline personality disorder, however, when most people read that statement they associate sociopath and lying and manipulation and martyr with borderline.”

– Community member

“We need to stop emphasizing when there is a shooting that someone has a mental illness because it continues the stigma that people with mental illness are a danger to society.”

– Community member

“I have attempted to talk about my mental health issues. Some family members are ignorant toward mental illnesses. They do not understand that it is real and not made up, or attention-seeking. They feel it’s all in my head and I can just turn it off. So it deters me from talking to them because it makes me feel embarrassed.”

– Community member

“I feel like I’m being judged. My brothers have never once discussed any of it with me. My husband’s family has never discussed it with me. My dad never did. My mom does a bit but avoids the topic. My husband isn’t a great support to talk to.”

– Community member

“I think the best option to remove the stigma is educating others and showing them that mental illness doesn’t mean someone lives in a mental institution, or has a death sentence. The stigma will only be removed when we change our perspective. Instead of offering only resources for the people who struggle from mental illness there needs to be more resources for those who don’t understand it.”

– Community member

“I am so excited to see social awareness (ie: Bell Let’s Talk, Sarnia’s local yellow bracelets with the crisis numbers, advertising at my doc’s office, etc.) because for the person who is overwhelmed by the stigma, having the ability to relate to someone or something is, in my opinion, the most effective and empowering way to shut down the social stigma that you’ve been living with.”

– Community member

“In my experience, stigma continues to occur in the community and I have had clients report that it was challenging for them to make that initial contact with the agency.”

– Adult mental health care worker

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SELF-REPORTED MENTAL ILLNESS