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Mental illness: Can improved awareness break through the stigma?

Originally posted on canada.com:

We know more collectively about mental health than at any other time in history. Through a broad range of public education initiatives, we have expanded our knowledge and awareness of these illnesses, as well as the experiences of people who suffer from them.

But that crucial next step – pushing past simple knowledge and empathy to change behaviours and affect policy, breaking through the enormous stigma that continues to surround mental illness – remains elusive.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, roughly one in five Canadians has experienced some form of mental illness. That’s over seven million people in this country alone. The implications of such a large number is wide-ranging, whether from a public health or socio-economic perspective. It’s an issue that continues to have mental health experts, as well as other health care professionals and policymakers, struggling to find solutions.

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Identifying stigma

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The media is the message: The role of journalism in mental health advocacy

Last week, Cliff Lonsdale of the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma introduced Mindset, a toolkit for journalists on reporting on mental health.

It was a good step forward in improving our collective understanding of mental illness, changing attitudes and eliminating the stigma and discrimination that prevent people from seeking the help they need.

The toolkit addresses the use of language, the engagement of people with lived experience, the complexities of mental disorders and the intersection of mental illness and the criminal justice system.

In today’s 24/7 news cycle it’s far too tempting to look for the easy way out, to write the quick story and to promote the sensationalized headline to captivate audiences. This poses a dilemma for a complex health issue.

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