Stigma & Discrimination
Stigma: is a “mark” carried by individuals that society finds to be undesirable. This mark is then used as a reason to treat the individual poorly.
Discrimination: is the unjust treatment of individuals who are seen as different. Discrimination is ILLEGAL!
Because Canadian society predominantly sees mental illness and addiction negatively there is a stigma surrounding it. People with diagnosed with a mental illness or addiction, even those who “look” or “act” like they may, are treated in discriminatory ways as a result.
It is in our thoughts, “People with addictions are untrustworthy.”
It is in our language, “They’re psycho!”
It is in our words, “I can’t be friends with an addict.”
It is in our actions, “We can’t hire you because you may hurt the other employees.”
Stigma and discrimination can result in people not reaching out for support to family and friends, not seeking treatment from professionals, individuals not reaching their full potential (academic, occupational, vocational or social), a decrease in overall health and in some cases it can lead some to end live.
Everyone is guilty of creating stigma and acting in discriminatory ways. Family, friends, neighbours, teachers, doctors, therapists, even the person experiencing the mental illness or addiction can discriminate against themselves (self-stigma/self-discrimination) because they believe what others think and say about them.
But, everyone is responsible for recognizing, challenging and changing how we treat individuals with mental illnesses and addictions. We can change our thoughts, language, and actions. If we created it then we can break it down and build a better society that supports individuals with mental illnesses and addictions and respects them and their experience.
This isn’t something that happens to people you don’t know; they are your family members, friends, your partner, spouse, co-worker and neighbour. Learning about mental illness and addiction, understanding that they are experiences that require love and support, we can change how we all view individuals with mental illnesses and addictions which will bring us all into a better place.