8 Tips for Dealing With Mental Health Stigma (Discrimination)

Stan Popovich, on The Huffington Post, shared his 8 tips for dealing with mental health stigma (I prefer the word discrimination).

  1. Talk to a counsellor– “Seeking professional help will help you to overcome your current issues. In addition, a counselor will be able to give you additional advice on how to deal with your friends and coworkers.”
  2. Don’t argue with others-“It is not your job to convince people that you are right and they are wrong. Your health is more important than what other people may think.”
  3. Watch who you hang out with– “It is important to surround yourself with positive people. Try to keep your distance from those people who are giving you a difficult time.”
  4. You are not alone– “There are millions of people around the world who struggle with their fears, anxieties, depression, and stresses. The key is to find those people who can relate to you through various support groups in your area.”
  5. Stand your ground– “It is important to stand your ground when dealing with family members and coworkers who are giving you a hard time. Explain your situation and your feelings to the people in your life, however don’t let them hassle you.”
  6. Join a support group– “These support groups will be supportive of your situation and give you additional advice regarding your problems. Joining a support group is very important in a person’s recovery and ability to find people who can relate to you.”
  7. Learn to take it one day at a time– “Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming month, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems.”
  8. Don’t give up– “You will not get better if you sit on the couch and don’t make an effort to get better. You need to know that you will eventually get better. Do not lose hope even during the worse of times. You problems will not last forever, and things do eventually change for the better.”

This is a good list. These are all strategies we should engage in but I find the strategies on this list to be very passive and more so putting pressure on the individual to handle other people’s stupidity. I would like to add a tip to this list.

9. Become a mental health advocate.

Critically and constructively challenge discriminatory views. Educate others about your experience and the experience of others. Help friends and family learn where they have learned what they know about mental health. Start a blog, tumblr, Twitter, Facebook page, group, etc that puts the truth out there and supports recovery.

Becoming a mental health advocate is what has helped me the most and I have seen the power I have to show people another way of thinking and being. I know this kind of work is not for everyone but every little bit counts.

Do you have any tips for dealing with mental health discrimination?

10 Common Therapy Myths

Top 10 Therapy Myths according to the Huffington Post


MYTH: Therapy Is Like Having A Paid Friend

FACT: There is huge difference between a therapist and your best friend. “There’s a myth that you pay someone to be nice to you and care for you — what I tell my clients is that you pay for time and expertise and the caring is free,” says Noah Rubinstein, founder and CEO of therapist directory GoodTherapy.org. Rubinstein adds, therapists are trained to avoid dual relationships and can’t see their clients outside of the office.


MYTH: Therapy Means You’re ‘Crazy’

FACT: Most people are raised to be independent and solve problems on their own. “Seeking help is not a sign of weakness and the truth is, we all suffer and getting help doesn’t mean you’re ‘crazy,'” Rubinstein says. He also adds that people at some point in time will go through periods of depression, hurt or feeling worried and mainstream media often has misconceptions of what a patient or client looks like. “Most people who go to therapists are ordinary everyday people. They don’t have manic episodes or are hospitalized — and I wouldn’t call this ‘crazy’ either,” he says.


MYTH: Therapy Is Endless

FACT: No, therapy isn’t a never-ending session that will take over your life. “A lot of people are afraid that if they go to therapy it will go on and on,” Rubinstein says. Depending on the type of therapist you see, therapists are trained to create a target plan of treatment. “Some people may never heal in this lifetime but for most people, the average therapy course is three or four months,” he says.


MYTH: Therapy Will Cost A Fortune

FACT: Yes, seeing a therapist often can get expensive. Rubinstein suggests looking at your insurance providers to see if you can get benefits — relying solely on paying out of your own pocket can get costly. But he also advises a holistic view. “When you think about price, what’s the cost of not doing therapy? Your job performance?” he says. Think about how your distress many conflict with your work or relationship and then make a decision about pricing.


MYTH: Therapists Will Blame You And Shame You

FACT: “This is something that comes directly out of Dr. Phil. Therapists are portrayed like Dr. Phil and he blames, shames and confronts his clients — this is not how therapy works,” Rubinstein says. Good therapy is about compassion, he adds, and is intended to let the client experience their own emotional breakthroughs at their own pace.


MYTH: Medication Is Just As Effective As Therapy

FACT: Rubinstein says that not all problems can be fixed with medication. “The medical model assumes that most psychological problems are caused by biochemistry, rather than viewing biochemical changes as a symptom, and can overlook the experience of losing jobs, divorce, deaths in the family etc.,” he says. Emotional stress, he notes, cannot be solved with just medication, and people relying solely on pills should look at their options for one-on-one therapy.


MYTH: Therapy Is Passive

FACT: Rubinstein says many people also think therapy is passive. Just think about all the scenes in movies or television shows where a therapist does nothing but nod his or her head. “Therapists are taught active listening skills and are trained to understand the client’s struggles,” he says.


MYTH: Therapy Is All Happy Thoughts

FACT: ‘Think happy thoughts…think happy thoughts.’ Yes, but not always. “Many new clients expect their therapist to change their perspective and convince them they should be happy. But therapy doesn’t work by thinking happy thoughts, In order to become happy, a person needs to face the parts of them that aren’t,” he says. Working with a client one-on-one, therapists are able to go through a person’s painful past and give them hope for a peaceful future.


MYTH: There’s Nothing You Can Do About The Past

FACT: There’s always an assumption that therapy is about moving forward and never looking back. “When we do this, our past still haunts us. Good therapy allows people to go to those places where they have been wounded and burned and resolve these feelings,” he says.


MYTH: Therapy Will Make Your Painful Problems Worse

FACT: Yes, you will go back into the past and yes, it may bring up some bad memories. But don’t be afraid. “Good therapists guide their clients through painful experiences, but in a way that is safe and not overwhelming.”

Prison and Mental Health

An article in the Huffington Post today basically compared Canada’s treatment of prisoners with mental health issues to torture (Mentally ill and Canadian prisons). The UN Committee Against Torture has slammed Canada for its inappropriate and prolonged use of solitary confinement to deal with prisoners with mental health issues. These prisoners are coming with complex needs and the prisons are not capable of meeting them.

The UN’s recommends that Canada:

  • increase the capacity of mental health centres
  • stop the use of solitary confinement for prisoners with serious or acute mental health issues
  • ensure that solitary confinement is limited and subject to judiciary oversight

Even before people with mental health issues enter Canada’s prison system they face improper treatment that can quickly lead to death. Toronto Police Involved in East End Shooting(happened close to my house) is a story from February 2012.

Toronto police on scene.

Police shot and killed a man who was out in the cold wearing a hospital gown, no shoes and holding a pair of scissors. Onlookers, neighbours, wondered if the police used excessive force on this man. There were 15 officers surrounding this one man who was then shot 3 times point blank. Some began to wonder if this man had mental health issues. Where was the mental health team? Well, Toronto police have no proper policy around handling crisis situations, for those with mental health issues or not. This is not the first time Toronto police have killed some with or possibly having mental health issues. To my knowledge this is being worked on.

In 2007, Ashely Smith was found dead in her prison cell. She had strangled herself but her death has been ruled an accident. She was first imprisoned when she was 15 years old and had bipolar disorder. Ashley’s mental health issues had gone untreated before and during her stay in prison. She was tasered, gassed, shackled, drugged and isolated. Ashely did not contain her fury towards her treatment which resulted in harsher sentences and treatment. Ashley was transferred 17 times, forcibly injected, and denial access to advocates, counsel and her family. She began to self harm while in solitary confinement where she would stay for months.

A few years ago I attended a seminar on South East Asian communities and their interaction with the prison system. One of the things I took away from it, aside that prison workers believe they are doing a fine job, is that many individuals in prison are not given adequate mental health services. Unless you have severe mental health issues you are left to suffer. I can only imagine the stress of entering and being in prison and how much that would be amplified if you have a mental health issue. Being in prison can also create

Ashley Smith

mental health problems.

It’s sad that we need death before we take action. I can only hope that with Canada’s new mental health strategy mental health workers, prison workers and police officers can improve and/or create mental health care for those in the prison system. Do people need to serve their time? Yes, of course! But we should not deny them proper treatment!

Canada must heed the Committee Against Torture’s recommendations and provide residential facilities to treat prisoners with mental health issues, and end the use of solitary confinement against them. Anything less would be an embarrassment of international proportions. -Renu Mandhane, Huffington Post 

Overcoming Stigma More Important Than Funding

The Huffington Post posted an article on Canada’s mental health strategy. The federal Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq (who is also aboriginal), said, “The first step is to get past the stigma and get people talking about mental health to determine better what kinds of services we can provide.” She believes that stigma needs to be tackled first and then services can come.

If no one is talking then how can the government and/or organizations know what needs to be changed, added or created to improve mental health services?

More money also does not mean better care (learned that in Overtreated by Shannon Brownlee). For the most part I think the province needs to use the money it is given towards improving mental healthcare and make it more of a priority. Instead of investing the money in crappy services, start supporting organizations that provide better service!

I’ve been bothered by the fact that we’ve been fed that the way to end stigma is by having services but if people are too ashamed to seek those services then they don’t matter.

I also feel that it doesn’t actually tackle mental health stigma because the services are almost saying “you tackle stigma by making these people as normal as possible.” Which is the right answer.

Access to quality service is apart of the puzzle but we need to start looking at mental health from a holistic perspective.

From my experience, mental health services were only beneficial for as long as I was in the building. As soon as I left the office I was back in the world that couldn’t understand me and worse, didn’t want to understand me. Society needs to get better with me.

What good are these services if I don’t have the support of family, friends, co workers, employers and peers? I can bust my ass off but if others can’t see past this ONE part of me then I will only go so far. That sucks.

We can make the change.