Landmark Canadian Mental Health Literacy study confirms stigma toward mental illness persists but offers some good news too



    OTTAWA, Oct. 1 /CNW Telbec/ - Nearly half of Canadians are still
uncomfortable revealing a mental health problem to others and think that a
person with a mental illness has trouble holding a job, according to a
landmark study on mental health literacy released today.
    'This is likely not all that surprising to most Canadians and that is
what concerns us most' said Constance McKnight, Co-Chair of the Canadian
Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health that commissioned the study.
    We are especially concerned that most people are still wary of revealing
mental health problems at work, for fear of jeopardizing their job security or
chances of promotion. Yet most people with common mental health problems do
work, so living with the stress of stigma works counter to improving their
level of wellness and their longer term mental health", she adds.
    The study - a first in Canada- took an overall look at what Canadians
know and how they think about mental illness and mental health through
extensive surveying and focus groups. It compared this data to findings about
mental health literacy in other countries. The group, CAMIMH, representing a
cross section of consumer, family, community and professional groups, released
the report today as part of its Mental Illness Awareness Week activities.
    Canadians' mental health literacy in general seems to be on par with
citizens in other western countries. Two-thirds of Canadians know that mental
health problems are common.
    Joan Montgomery, Chair of the Committee overseeing this study, adds that
while most Canadians do know that mental health problems are common and seem
to have a reasonable understanding of the causes and triggers, shame and
stigma seem to still play such a great part in why people do not seek help for
their mental health problems.
    "It seems that people have become more accepting of illnesses like
depression and anxiety but continue to believe that people stigmatize what are
considered the more serious illnesses like schizophrenia," added Ms. McKnight.
We see this trend in how people responded to questions about how they think
about schizophrenia vs depression for chances of recovery, seeking medical
attention, causes, prevention, and the likely experience of stigma.
    Montgomery explained that the group decided to do this study because
there has been a Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada for 15 years, and
there are a growing number of local and provincial public education efforts
over the past 10 years but the compelling evidence of what works best in
public education and anti-stigma work world wide is still lacking. We felt we
needed benchmark data about Canadians beliefs and attitudes today so that we
can begin to measure change over time. "Hopefully in 10 years time we will
have a better story to tell," she said. "Since a public education program is
one of the priorities of the new Mental Health Commission of Canada, we will
want them to look at these findings closely. We will be wanting policy makers
and funders to put money into activities that will actually have an impact on
stigma, and improve people's ability to mange their mental health
effectively, " she added.
    "Mental Health Literacy is an essential element of a comprehensive mental
health strategy and an integral element of addressing stigma and
discrimination". The Mental Health Commission of Canada applauds CAMIMH'S
efforts to develop a national strategy on Mental Health Literacy and looks
forward to a spirit of collaboration as we collectively move towards the
development of a national strategy on mental health and mental illness in
Canada", said Michael Kirby, Chair of the newly established Mental Health
Commission of Canada.
    The complete report and some of the background documents are available on
line at http://www.camimh.ca/mental_health_literacy.html

    About CAMIMH

    CAMIMH's mission is to promote and facilitate the development, adoption,
and implementation of a national action plan on mental illness and mental
health. CAMIMH was founded in 1998 to get mental health on the national agenda
and bring together the voices of the major groups that span the continuum of
mental health. The 19 members now represent consumers and their families,
health care and social service providers, professional associations, and
community and research organizations. A full list of members is available on
the website.




For further information:

For further information: Joan Montgomery, Chair, Mental Health Literacy
Project, CAMIMH, (416) 738-7397, www.camimh.ca, www.miaw.ca


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