World comes to Canada to fight stigma surrounding mental illness

International conference to be held in Ottawa

CALGARY, Feb. 28, 2012 /CNW/ - From June 4-6, 2012, the world's leading mental health experts will meet in Ottawa to discuss effective interventions to reduce stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health problems and illnesses. Together Against Stigma: Changing How We See Mental Illness, hosted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the World Psychiatric Association Scientific Section on Stigma and Mental Illness, will serve as a catalyst. Its goal is to mobilize and focus the actions and work of others to fight stigma.

"We are honoured to co-host this important and prestigious event," said Louise Bradley, MHCC President and CEO. "We are striving to change negative attitudes and behaviours toward individuals living with mental health problems and illnesses, and Canada is committed to improving the mental health and well-being of all people. The MHCC is proud to help bring the world's experts together to fight stigma."

It is estimated that nearly seven million Canadians will experience a mental health problem this year. The stigmatizing, or negative attitudes and behaviours that surround mental illness can result in social isolation, reduced opportunities, and outright discrimination. This reality often prevents people from seeking the help or treatment they need.

"Some people say the stigma they experience is often worse than the illness itself," said Micheal Pietrus, director of the MHCC's anti-stigma initiative called Opening Minds. "Eliminating the stigma of mental illness is not only a priority of the Commission, but a goal of all mental health organizations worldwide."

Together Against Stigma will bring together more than 500 mental health researchers, professionals, policy makers, service users, advocates, caregivers and people with lived experience of mental illness. The primary topics will focus on youth, health careĀ providers, and employers, as well as stigma in the workplace and in the media.

Keynote speakers will include:

  • Graham Thornicroft, PhD, Professor of Community Psychiatry, Head of the Health Service Research Department at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London.
  • Norman Sartorius, MD, President of the Association for the Improvement of Mental Health Programs and a member of the Geneva Prize Foundation.
  • Patrick Corrigan, PsyD, Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology and editor of the American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation.
  • Heather Stuart, PhD, Professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, and Chair and co-founder of the World Psychiatric Association's Scientific Section on Stigma and Mental Disorders, and Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair at Queen's University.

The conference will include numerous events, workshops and breakout sessions, with presentations from international anti-stigma organizations and local artists. To register for the conference visit: www.togetheragainststigma2012.ca.

Did you know?

  • 40% of Canadian parents would not tell anyone if their child had a mental illness.
  • Only one child in six who is diagnosed with a mental health problem gets help.
  • More than one-third of news stories about mental health or mental illness focus on crime or violence.
  • Two-thirds of people with a mental health problem will not seek help because of the stigma associated with their illness.

About the Mental Health Commission of Canada

The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for transformative change. Our mission is to work with stakeholders to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems and to improve services and support. Our goal is to help people who live with mental health problems lead meaningful and productive lives. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is funded by Health Canada.

For further information:

Kristin Bernhard, Communication Specialist
Office: 403 385-4066/Cell: 403 620-2339
kbernhard@mentalhealthcommission.ca