Breaking the Silence

Website for the American Mental Health Counselors Association's Breaking the Silence initiative to address mental health stigma.

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AMHCA’s Public Awareness Committee Launches “Breaking the Silence” Campaign (see the Press Release)

Stigma and discrimination. People with mental health problems say that the social stigma attached to mental health conditions and the discrimination they experience can make their hard times worse and make it harder to recover.

  • Mental illness is common. It affects millions of people, and their friends, families, work colleagues and society in general.
  • One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.
  • Around one in ten children experience mental health problems.
  • Depression alone affects around one in 12 in the whole population.
  • Most people who experience mental health problems recover fully, or are able to live with and manage them, especially if they get help early on.

Even though so many people are affected, there is a strong social stigma attached to mental illness, and people with mental health problems can experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives.

Many people’s problems are made worse by the stigma and discrimination they experience — from society, but also from families, friends and employers.

Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives.

We know that people with mental health problems are amongst the least likely of any group with a long-term health condition or disability to: find work, be in a steady, long-term relationship, live in decent housing, and be socially included in mainstream society.

This is because society in general has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people. Many people believe that people with a mental illness are violent and dangerous, when in fact they are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming other people.

Stigma and discrimination can also worsen someone’s mental health problems, and delay or impede their getting help and counseling, and their recovery. Social isolation, poor housing, unemployment and poverty are all linked to mental illness.

 

Stigma and discrimination can trap people in a cycle of illness.

The situation is exacerbated by the media. Media reports often link mental illness with violence, or portray people with mental health problems as dangerous, criminal, evil, or very disabled and unable to live normal, fulfilled lives. This is far from the case.

Research shows that the best way to challenge these stereotypes is through firsthand contact with people with experience of mental health problems. A number of national and local campaigns are trying to change public attitudes to mental illness.

It is illegal to discriminate directly or indirectly against people with mental health problems in public services and functions, access to premises, work, education, associations and transport.  But we know that discrimination exists.

The Public Awareness Committee at AMHCA is launching the Breaking the Silence campaign to call to attention to the strong social stigma attached to mental illness, and that people with mental health problems do experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives.

AMHCA’s Public Awareness Committee also has developed a general and comprehensive tool kit and this website to the Breaking the Silence initiative to address mental health stigma.  The tool kit on stigma issues, will include proposed op-eds, and letters to the editor that clinical mental health counselors, other mental health providers, and consumers can use and edit to reflect their personnel experience and style, and submit to various media outlets.

If we are to improve the mental health culture of our nation, we need to begin by fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness, ensuring that people can get the help they need, without fear of condemnation or abuse.

Mental illness is common. With one in five of us affected every year, reducing stigma across all conditions is an important issue for everyone. Greater understanding provides hope.

We hope this campaign provides more understanding on the impact of stigma and the need to eradicate it.

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