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Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace or sign of defect that is a permanent part of a person’s appearance or character. It’s a negative judgment based on a personal trait and is a very real problem for people who have a mental illness because society feels uncomfortable and is ill-informed about mental illness.

Stigma may be obvious and direct, such as someone making a negative comment about your mental health condition or treatment. It can also be subtle, such as someone assuming you could be violent or dangerous because you have a mental health condition. Discriminatory terms like “lunatic” or “crazy” are often used casually when referring to mental illness and reinforce the stigma associated with mental illness.


Why it’s important to overcome the stigma of mental illness

Mental illness is sometimes referred to as an invisible illness because the only way to know whether someone has been diagnosed with a mental illness is if they choose to share that information. Due to stigma, many people with mental illness are afraid of being rejected, suffer from low self-esteem and are unwilling to seek help for fear of what others may think. It leads to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, when in fact people can and do recover from mental illness. Stigma also impedes investment in necessary mental health services and research. The best way to overcome stigma is with facts.


What Ontario Shores is doing to reduce the stigma of mental illness

Ontario Shores is very active in working to eliminate the stigma of mental illness. The award winning Talking about Mental Illness (TAMI) Stomp out Stigma program reaches out to educate public and high school students. Our Adolescent Mental Health Literacy Program supports education in high schools and our documentary Three Voices: Discovery, Recovery, Hope has been shown to thousands of students and film festival patrons.

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