The subject of this post sounds a little dry, but I feel like I should share with all of you something that I learned this week. My journalism class was recently given a presentation on the media’s stigmatization of mental health issues and we were surprised to hear that the media has a huge impact on the way the public perceives mental illnesses. The following are some of the main points of the lecture which I found mind-boggling.
-1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem during their lifetime
-2 out of 3 people who have a mental illness do not seek help due to stigma
-only 1 in 6 children with mental disabilities receive adequate treatment
-in Canada, 4,000 people per year commit suicide
-for most people, the hardest part about living with a mental illness is the stigma that comes with the illness
-many people with mental illnesses blame themselves for their illness and/or are ashamed of having a mental illness
-media coverage of mental health issues is generally negative, therefore most attention that is given to mental health issues by the public is generally negative.
There are so many myths about mental illnesses that are told by the media to the public. It is not true, for example, that all people living with schizophrenia have split personalities, that they are uncontrollable and dangerous, or that their illness causes them to lose their jobs and their ability to keep up in the workplace. If you know someone with a mental illness or if you yourself are living with one, you probably know that there is a stigma or stereotype that is attached to every illness. Unfortunately, many of these misconceptions come from the media, which is generally thought to be a trustworthy source of information. Most of the speakers at our presentation were living with a mental illness and they expressed their disappointment and hurt that the media was printing these myths without even bothering to check their facts or talk to people with mental illnesses. It was hard to listen to some of the presenters talk about how they felt (or had felt at some point in their lives) like no one could understand what they were going through because most people made fun of them or simply ignored them. It made me wonder how anyone could be so cruel to people with mental illnesses when they are really not that different from you or I.
So what I’m asking you to do is to take at least one of the facts listed above and share that information with your family, friends, coworkers, etc. Sure, spreading this information around might not change the world or save a life, but it will educate others about the negative effects of the stigmas and stereotypes that can come with mental health issues. Remember that ignorance is definitely not bliss!