A few words about stigma

Stigma refers to negative attitudes (prejudice) and negative behaviour (discrimination) toward people living with mental illness. We believe, as others do, that the greatest obstacle to improved mental health is the stigma surrounding mental illness. Your family member may try to hide a mental illness and may not get help because of a fear of how he will be treated by family, friends and the community. Often, even if your family member is honest about mental illness and gets help, he may feel shame or have low self-esteem.

Stigma is not reserved only for people living with mental illness. It also affects family members and friends. Sometimes they struggle with the reality of mental illness and may have feelings of embarrassment and regret, not sure what to say, if anything, to others. Embarrassment may also prevent people from supporting their family member living with mental illness.

Remember that you and your family member are not alone. Mental illness affects one out of every five people in Canada. The more we learn individually and collectively and the more we open our hearts and minds to that knowledge, the less stigma we will have. It may benefit you and your family member to share your experiences with people who’ve “been there” (affected by mental illness). Information on peer support is included in “Getting Help”.

More on stigma and its effects is included in “You and your family.”

“I waited so long to get help – I was terrified about what my friends and family, my boss would think.”

“I hear what people say... I didn’t want it to be me. I had a crisis that could have been avoided.”