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Mental Health Discrimination and Stigma Reduction
Last updated: 22 February, 2023
Nearly a billion people experience mental health issues globally, making it one of the most common human experiences. Yet, the negative stigma around those of us experiencing mental health issues is widespread and often leads to discrimination.
The impacts of stigma may have wide-ranging negative consequences on the person experiencing mental distress. Often, it prevents them from speaking out and seeking support.
But, there is a growing international push – from researchers, subject matter experts, and grassroots organizations – to stop this mental health-related stigma and dismantle the discriminatory barriers affecting people, so that they feel empowered to talk openly about their experience and seek support. Leading the way are innovative digital programs, strategies and campaigns that are tackling the issue head-on.
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National programs and strategies
Opening Minds is the largest systematic effort in Canadian history focused on reducing stigma related to mental illness. It targets youth and workplaces, offering digital tools to support their efforts.
Digital initiatives include:
- Understanding Stigma - an online course that provides healthcare providers or frontline clinicians with training and education about caring for people with mental illness including addiction. The course has three modules that focus on raising awareness, the impacts of stigma, and challenging stigma and discrimination.
- Headstrong - a youth leadership initiative developed to champion mental wellness. The Headstrong Summit is an event designed to help challenge stereotypical thinking about mental health and inspire youth leadership. A virtual attendance option is available.
- The Working Mind - an evidence-based program designed to promote mental health and reduce the stigma around mental illness in the workplace. The course is available in a virtual format.
The National Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Strategy (currently in draft form) is part of Australia’s mental health reform agenda. The Strategy includes priority actions that include using digital technologies to help promote supportive attitudes towards those experiencing mental health issues and reduce discrimination and stigma.
Some of the proposed digital actions:
- Ensure people have alternative ways to access information and services, in addition to digital access.
- Influence digital platforms to moderate content that promotes or reinforces mental health-related stigma and discrimination
- Develop and implement campaigns using mass media and digital platforms that:
- move beyond a focus on the scale of the problem and what not to do, to incorporate suggestions for engendering hope, positive language and behaviours towards people with personal lived experience, and respect for their dignity and rights
- reach rural and culturally and linguistically diverse communities (e.g., through funding CALD radio and organisations in each state to lead action connected with established lived experience perspectives)
- are co-designed and co-delivered with people with lived experience
Nōku te Ao Like Minds is a New Zealand public awareness programme that aims to increase social inclusion and end discrimination towards people with experience of mental illness or distress. It does this through public awareness campaigns (including social media platforms), community projects and research.
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