Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Letter to the Editor ...

... published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald.
Poor choice of words

I commend the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) for considering mental illness to be a priority for inclusion in the eighth annual National Report Card on Health Care.

This study found that "a majority of Canadians (60 per cent) agree that the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness are underfunded, while a greater majority agrees that funding for mental health issues ought to be on par with funding for physical health issues, like cancer and diabetes (72 per cent)."

Against this backdrop of interesting data, the CMA posted an article on its website which focuses on stigma, including a bullet which states "almost half of Canadians (46 per cent) think the term ‘mental illness’ is used as an excuse for bad behaviour." I find the CMA’s wording of this bullet disturbing because the statement used in the survey was: "We call some things mental illness because it gives some people an excuse for their poor behaviour and personal failings."

Looking at the survey responses to this statement – i.e., 22 per cent completely disagree; 13 per cent somewhat disagree; 15 per cent neither agree nor disagree; 25 per cent somewhat agree; and 21 per cent completely agree – I am led to conclude that the statement was poorly worded and resulted in a random distribution of responses.

Stephen W. Ayer, Executive Director, Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia

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