Mental illness: time to break the taboo


Highlights of history

Mental health continues to be stigmatized, says Sue Baker

Discrimination can be worse than the disease itself, she says

Talking about mental health can make a big difference

Editor’s Note: Sue Baker is Director of Time to change, the UK mental health stigma program run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. Here she writes for CNN on World Mental Health Day. The opinions expressed in this report are hers alone.


On World Mental Health Day, around the world, many of us, perhaps hundreds of thousands, if not millions, will raise awareness about mental health issues to challenge outdated opinions and end deadly, even death, the stigma and discrimination that still comes with having a mental health problem in so many countries and communities.

Sue Boulanger

Just as mental health is a global problem, so too, unfortunately, is the stigma, shame and discrimination associated with mental health.

According to World Health Organization, approximately 450 million people worldwide suffer from mental illness. In Britain, figures show that one in four of us will be affected by mental health problems, but despite the fact that they affect the lives of so many people, people still face negative reactions. when they disclose their illness, making the talk and seeking support. they need a lot more strength than they need to be.

In fact, nine out of ten people tell us to Time to change that they face stigma and discrimination because of their mental health problem. Additionally, more than half (58%) say the stigma and discrimination is as serious or worse than the disease itself.

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Dealing with a mental health problem can be tough enough, just like dealing with a long-term physical health problem, but imagine yourself not feeling able to tell anyone you are suffering from. diabetes or asthma. It is inconceivable.

Talking about mental health can make a big difference, and social contact – that is, where people with and without mental health issues come together to have a conversation – is an extremely powerful approach to breaking the taboo around mental health. question.

At Time to Change, this is at the heart of our philosophy and we have followed the lead of other anti-stigma programs around the world, in particular the “Like spirits, like Mine ”which has existed for 17 years in New Zealand. To ensure that best practices are shared globally, we are part of a International Alliance Against Stigma as well as other anti-stigma campaigns in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Scotland, Sweden and Spain.

Our latest campaign coincides with World Mental Health Day and aims to reach as many people as possible to transform their mental health attitudes and behaviors. It encourages people to have a conversation and promotes the little things they can do to make a difference for someone who is going through a difficult time. As part of the campaign, we are also doing targeted work to reach people from African and Caribbean communities and young people.

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We are witnessing a powerful social movement for change with thousands of people taking the lead within their own communities and taking action (online and in person) to tackle stigma. There are also hundreds of employers, schools, service providers and media organizations working to tackle stigma.

In England, a national survey showed that public attitudes towards mental illness improved significantly last year with the biggest annual improvement in the past decade and possibly since recordings started 20 years ago. There was also a marked improvement in desired behavior with people more willing to work with, live with, and maintain a relationship with someone with a mental health problem.

Change is finally here in England, but we know a lot more work is needed to end the life-limiting stigma and discrimination; it is the work of a generation.

Wherever you are on your path to ending stigma, we hope that World Mental Health Day allows you to make further progress towards this vital, life-changing goal.

Read: People with someone else’s face

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Read: These 8 child prodigies are the future of medicine

The opinions expressed in this report are solely those of Sue Baker.


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