The stigma attached to mental illness is strong even now as awareness grows. It's not surprising. People do not understand mental illness, and what they don't understand, they fear. Young or old, individuals suffering from mental illness are likely to be discriminated against. Here are some facts about mental illness:
- According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime. Mental illness affects people of all ages, intelligence, social status, etc. Many people you know and meet every day have mental illnesses.
- Mental illness is not a result of personal or mental weakness. One cannot simply “will it away”, nor do people develop mental illnesses because of some failure on their part.
- Mental illnesses are treatable. Many illnesses can be managed or eliminated with medication. Some illnesses can be treated with psychotherapy. However, many are best treated with a combination of the two.
- The mentally ill are not more violent. In fact, people with mental illness are no more violent than anyone else, but they are more likely to be the victims of violence. News media tends to focus on stories of violence perpetrated by the mentally ill, as do fictitious portrayals.
- Mental illness encompasses a wide range of disorders. Depression, and anxiety (common ailments) are mental illnesses, as are schizophrenia and Alzheimer's.
- People who are mentally ill are discriminated against. The mentally ill are often turned down for jobs. They are often denied insurance benefits for the illness, and are often dismissed or marginalized by doctors.
If you suspect you may have a mental illness you should talk to a doctor. If you feel you are being discriminated against, contact their superiors. Early intervention can make a tremendous difference. If a relative has a mental illness, take the time to learn about the disease, and what you can do to help. For more information, you can go to http://www.ontario.cmha.ca/.