A note from the editor published in the Spring 2010 issue of CrossCurrents:
This is an issue of CrossCurrents that you may not want to read. It forces us to confront our own contributions as health care providers in perpetuating stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness and addiction. We may think we are immune; after all, we work in this sector because we want to help people. Many health care providers I spoke with told me, “We don’t have that problem here.”
Yet consumers tell a different story. We solicited input from people with mental health and addiction issues. What became clear from the many submissions we received was the pervasiveness of stigma and discrimination in the health care system. People told us again and again that stigma is the single most important barrier to their quality of life, more so than the illness itself.
Stories like these describe the experience of stigma, but we know little about what interventions work in reducing it. This issue of CrossCurrents focuses on action. We hear first about Opening Minds, the 10-year anti-stigma campaign of the Mental Health Commission of Canada that in its first year is targeting stigma and discrimination among health care professionals, with the goal of developing promising practices. Next, Anne Ptasznik spends time with a group of psychiatry residents and consumers that meets informally in non-clinical settings, providing the valuable contact and context needed to combat stigma.
Social worker Cheryl Peever’s personal story shows that clinical knowledge does not always translate into effective workplace practices when mental illness or addiction is a workplace issue. Ned Morgan examines how the stigma that extends to those who work with people with mental health and addiction issues is perpetuated through film portrayals of mental health nurses. Other stories look at stigma in the emergency department and the black mark of borderline personality disorder. In her Last Word column, Jan Wallcraft asks whether public anti-stigma campaigns developed by psychiatrists do more harm than good. Visit the Last Word column to have your say.
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