Does the Increase in Public Awareness and Education About Mental Illness in Canada Change Stigma?

While I’m pleased to see any positive focus on public awareness and education around the topic of mental illness, I wonder about the real effect that Bell Media’s “Let’s Talk” awareness campaign has on reducing stigma where the proverbial “rubber meets the road”. Do we really equate mental illness with physical illness in instances where we engage those in treatment or recovery? For example, if someone has a heart condition or has diabetes controlled with medication and lifestyle choices, do we honestly view their challenges and recovery the same way that we view someone with an equivalently successful management plan for depression or anxiety? In my experience, it seems the answer to that question is varied. People seem to want to understand, particularly when mental illness affects someone they know. However, it seems that too many individuals (and some institutions) are entrenched in a mindset that, generally, those who are mentally ill need to “just snap out of it”. While it’s great to talk about it, our society may have a way to go before the stigma erodes to the point where people can feel comfortable openly discussing their own struggles, particularly when a person’s career or social life is part of the equation. – cPaul

I think the point Philip Moscovitch made last January in the Globe and Mail about Bell’s “Let’s Talk” is spot on:

“There is little evidence that these kinds of campaigns have any significant effect on changing people’s beliefs or behaviour. A study published in the medical journal The Lancet in 2015 said that when it comes to medium- and- long-term effectiveness of anti-stigma campaigns, there is “some evidence of effectiveness in improving knowledge and attitudes, but not for behavioural outcomes.” In other words, people might change the way they think – but not how they behave.

Even worse, the campaigns could be counter-productive. “The more we emphasize how widespread the stigma of mental illness is the more we may be reinforcing people’s stigmatizing responses.””

See Philip Moscovitch’s article here:

Stigma-busting campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk Day don’t do much to actually create the change that’s needed for Canadians with mental illnesses – and might even do more harm

About cPaul

Father: "He never amounted to anything". Mother: "Who the hell does he think he is"? Former Teacher: "Smart as a bag of hammers". Former Boss: "Condescending". Brother: "Mom loves me more".
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