Anti-Stigma/Myth vs. Fact

Myths About Mental Illness

- Caused by weakness of character
- A curse has been placed on the individual.
- The family caused it, mother be being overprotective, and the father by being too passive
- Someone with a mental illness is dangerous or violent
- Someone with a mental illness rarely recovers
- someone with a mental illness is a misunderstood genius
- Mental illness is rare
- Someone with a mental illness has done something to ‘deserve’ the illness.

None of these myths are true.

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The Stigma Associated with Psychosis and Mental Illness

The stigma associated with psychosis can be worse than mental illness itself. It can keep someone in the closet about their mental illness and prevent them from receiving treatment (Summerville &, 2010). It is one of the greatest disablers, and it has led to discrimination in housing, employment, and social supports. It has also been the main reason for people with mental illness to become socially isolated, drug abuse, and excessive institutionalization. This means that stigma can decrease a persons’ chance of recovery. 

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How can we eliminate stigma?

Change our thinking and we can change the world (MSS, 2004).
Change Our Language. Words like “crazy”, “lunatic”, “wacko”, “psycho”, “retarded” and “schizophrenic” are inappropriate and hurtful. Remember never to focus on the disability someone has! Always take a peoples first initiative (MSS, 2008). Word choices such as ‘Person Who Has Schizophrenia’, “Person who has manic depression”, “person with a disability”, and “Able Person” are much more appropriate (MSS, 2008).

The media often shows people with a mental illness as dangerous individuals. As a result, societal stigma creates a tremendous burden for people with mental disorders, and leaves them vulnerable to becoming isolated.

Professor James Fox says: “If people would realize that with mental illness there is often something wrong with the structure or function of the brain, just like a pancreas or a kidney sometimes doesn’t form or function properly, there would be less stigmas attached to it.”

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British Colombia Schizophrenia Society. (2006) Early Psychosis Online Booket. Richmond: British Columbia Schizophrenia Society

Burpee, J., & Summerville, C. (2004). The Truth About Schizophrenia. Eli Lilly: Janssen-Ortho Inc.

French, P., & Smith, J., & Shiers, D., & Reed, M., & Rayne, M. (2010). Promoting Recovery in Early Psychosis. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell.

Schizophrenia Society of Canada. (2003). Reaching Out. Markham: SSC

Summerville, C. (2008). Stigma: Language Matters. Winnipeg:  Schizophrenia Society of Manitoba