Sending a message to end stigma
Enhancing health care professionals’ knowledge and understanding of the negative impact of stigma on patient-care outcomes can make a meaningful difference in the attitudes and perceptions of those individuals who treat patients with mental illness and addictions.
Provincial Systems Support Program (PSSP) staff from the North region have developed workshops designed to provide understanding of the impact of stigma. So far this year, the program has reached 182 health care professionals working in 11 hospitals in the Northeast.
“Staff heard facts about the stigma of mental health and addictions in the workplace and had an opportunity to hear from a person with lived experience about their journey from illness to recovery,” says PSSP Regional Implementation Coordinator, Sylvie Guenther.
As part of the Understanding the Impact of Stigma project, 52 people with lived experience were given the opportunity to learn ways to develop and share their story in an effort to evoke change. This was achieved by partnering with the Lived Experience Recovery Network in North Bay and the Northern Initiative for Social Action in Sudbury.
“Feedback was great. Participants felt the workshop was effective in reducing stigma and discrimination. Many suggested the training should be mandatory for hospital staff and should be more than one hour,” said Sylvie.
Melanie Landry from Health Sciences North says many were shocked by how their thoughts and behaviours were impacting the treatment outcomes of clients. “They found the real life story of the consumer to have been extremely real and eye opening,” Melanie said. “Staff learned that decreasing stigma and increasing awareness helps to achieve a better client experience.”
Those with lived experience who shared their stories also felt the project had a significant impact on their lives.
“My involvement with the Stigma Workshop has empowered me to speak-up against discrimination and stigma in my own workplace,” said Matt Carriere from Sudbury. “It seems as though change is on the horizon and I believe now is the time to take action. This project has given me a renewed sense of hope because I can see that people are finally beginning to listen. I truly believe the Stigma Workshop has given a voice to the voiceless and for this I am truly grateful.”
Planning for phase two of the project is underway and will go beyond training to help hospitals establish internal resources to ensure that hospital employees continue to be exposed to information about the effects of stigma.
“Employees are encouraged to adopt a culture that is sensitive and accepting,” said Regional Implementation Coordinator Sandra Watson. “This important work is changing attitudes, increasing knowledge and embedding anti-stigma concepts in organizational culture, policies and practices.