“It’s hard to put yourself out there when you feel that way because you feel guilty and ashamed.”
Meet Joanne, a young woman from Toronto. Joanne shares her experience seeking support for mental health and how going to Humber River Hospital changed her life.
Many people with mental illness report that stigma and discrimination are just as painful as the symptoms of their mental illness. Mental health is one of the most stigmatized conditions despite how common and widespread it is. Stories about horrific acts often dominate headlines and create a negative association with mental health, and rarely do stories featuring the recovery process grab headlines or equivalent media coverage. These negative stereotypes and pre-conceptions often silence and isolate those who are challenged by mental illness, preventing them from seeking out the help they need.
Few if any other types of health condition are portrayed in the same manner as mental health. For instance, many people become immediately sympathetic with a person who has cancer, but because of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions, many people unconsciously associate a person who has a mental illness with negative stereotypes or treat it as a character flaw.
What can you do to recognize and combat the stigma around mental health? The Canadian Mental Health Association recommends the STOP method when assessing if media is reinforcing the negative stigma around mental health.
S – Stereotypes, does the piece assume all people with mental health challenges share the same experiences?
T – Trivialize, does the piece treat the individual or their disease with less respect than a neurotypical person?
O – Offensive, does the piece insult those experiencing mental illness?
P – Patronize, does the piece imply the individual is not as good as other people or assumes they are broken in some way.
“Your brain and your mind are part of your body. You should not treat it any different than any part of your body.”
Meet Abu, a young man from Toronto with bipolar disorder. Watch as Abu and his sister, Aisha, share their mental health journey at Humber River Hospital.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that commonly characterized by shifts in mood and energy levels. These shifts, depicted as the titular “two poles”, can impact a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities. These drastic shifts between feeling up (a manic episode) and feeling down (a depressive episode) can leave a person feeling drained, confused, and it makes maintaining relationships difficult.
If you know someone with bipolar disorder what can you do to help? Above all else be understanding and patient. Like any illness, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are not a choice the person has voluntarily made, and like many illnesses, bipolar disorder can be treated with the assistance of medical professionals.
If they have not already sought out professional help, encourage them to seek help with their condition but do not pressure or make them feel coerced. Pressuring or coercing people with bipolar disorder may end up making them feel more isolated. Remind them that you are there to support them, and be sure to include them in typical activities that you have shared in the past.