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How CMHA is addressing stigma around mental health issues

March 13, 2014

A British systematic review, published in Psychological Medicine in February 2014,  shows that stigma around mental health is still a problem and prevents many people from accessing much-needed mental health services. According to the study, approximately one in four people have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, psychosis and bipolar disorder. However, the study found that in Europe and the United States, 75 per cent of individuals with mental health concerns don’t seek or receive treatment, which often results in poor outcomes.

The study found that in Europe and the United States, 75 per cent of individuals with mental health concerns don’t seek or receive treatment

The authors note that two main types of stigma  prevent individuals from seeking care: “treatment stigma” occurs when individuals feel a sense of disgrace associated with using or receiving mental health treatment services; and “internalized stigma” occurs when individuals feel ashamed and/or embarrassed about having a mental health condition.  Other barriers include fear of disclosing a mental health condition and concerns about confidentiality. Many people believe that they can handle a mental health problem on their own and that they don’t need help. The study also found that young men, individuals from minority ethnic groups as well as military and health professionals are less likely to seek help due to stigma.

Read recent media coverage of the systemic review in the Globe and Mail.

CMHA Ontario is working to break down barriers due to stigma. CMHA Ontario co-chairs the Police Records Check Coalition which ensures that individuals who have encounters with police due to a mental health and/or addictions-related issue are not prevented from obtaining employment, volunteer positions or crossing the border. CMHA Ontario advocates against the disclosure of mental health police records, since it is discriminatory and increases the stigma of mental health issues.

CMHA Ontario is also working to improve accessibility and disability accommodation for people with mental health conditions in a range of settings. Through the Think Outside the Box project, CMHA Ontario is working with partners to identify innovative practices across Ontario for mental health accessibility and accommodations.

CMHA Ontario also leads a Community of Interest (COI) for Racialized Populations and Mental Health and Addictions.  This group seeks to improve provincial mental health policy, planning and service delivery for racialized groups in Ontario.

Read more about stigma and discrimination on CMHA Ontario’s website.

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