OTTAWA, June 4, 2012 /CNW/ - Award-winning actress and mental health advocate Glenn Close helped turn the spotlight today on the dire need to break down debilitating stigma that creates barriers for people with mental illness on Day 1 of an international conference in Ottawa.
Nearly 600 of the world's top researchers, mental health professionals, policy makers and people with lived experience are meeting in Ottawa from June 4-6 for Together Against Stigma: Changing How We See Mental Illness — a three-day conference organized by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the World Psychiatric Association Scientific Section on Stigma and Mental Illness.
Close, her younger sister, Jessie Close, and nephew, Calen Pick, helped open the conference by speaking about the damaging effects of stigma on families. The subject is near to the heart of Close, who three years ago launched an organization working to eradicate the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness after her sister and nephew successfully fought a life-and-death battle with mental illness.
Close told the audience she was participating in the conference not as an actress, but as a daughter, a sister, an aunt and an advocate, pushing for improvements to a health system that discriminates against those with mental illness.
"I want to make a difference — a science-based, lasting difference. That's why we're here today," she said.
The 5th annual International Stigma Conference follows on the heels of the MHCC launching the country's first national mental health strategy (strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca) last month and the recent World Health Assembly proceedings in Geneva.
More than seven million Canadians will experience mental health problems this year. Researchers have found that stigma is a major barrier that prevents more than two thirds of people with mental illnesses from seeking help.
"The Mental Health Commission of Canada is committed to doing its part to end stigma and the enormous struggles it creates for people living with mental illness," said Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the MHCC. "Last month the Commission launched Canada's first-ever national mental health strategy. This is our blueprint for improving the mental health system, and it emphasized that the system will never truly be improved if we don't reduce stigma."
"Mental illness doesn't care if you are a child or a senior, a mother or a father, a CEO or a student. Stigma doesn't care either," said Dr. David Goldbloom, Chair of the MHCC. "It's pervasive and it's indiscriminate and it has to end. Talking openly about mental health and mental illnesses through events such as this conference is the way that we can begin eliminating stigma and improving mental health in Canada."
Other high-profile speakers on the first day of the conference were: Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, who discussed her own experience with mental illness and stigma; renowned journalist Lloyd Robertson, who discussed media depictions of mental illness; Ms. Louise Bradley, MHCC President and CEO, and Dr. David Goldbloom, MHCC Chair, and Gillian Mulvale of the MHCC's Science Advisory Committee and Consumer Reference Group. She spoke about her personal experience battling stigma while going through multiple bouts of post-partum depression, and her decision to return to graduate school to launch a career to further the cause of mental health system improvement in Canada. Several of the world's top psychiatric researchers also spoke, including Dr. Graham Thornicroft, Dr. Norman Sartorius, Dr. Patrick Corrigan, Dr. Heather Stuart and Dr. Tony Jorm.
The conference continues Tuesday, June 5 and Wednesday, June 6 at the Delta Ottawa City Centre. Each day of the conference will deal with specific areas of mental health stigma. Day 1 focused on media depictions of mental illness, Day 2 will look at building better mental health practices for healthcare providers and youths and Day 3 will examine human rights and stigma in the workplace. More detailed information about the conference agenda, presenters and events can be found at www.togetheragainststigma2012.ca. Follow the event on Twitter at: #Stigma2012 and @MHCC_
Members of the media are invited to attend conference sessions. Individual media requests for interviews with presenters, mental health experts and those with lived experience will be considered, schedule permitting.
MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID
Media representatives are also invited to attend one of two Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) sessions taking place: Tuesday, June 5, 7:30am-9am, Chateau Laurier (Parliamentarians and staff), and Tuesday, June 5, 7pm-8:30pm, Delta Ottawa City Centre, 101 Lyon St. (conference delegates including the Close family). MHFA teaches people the skills to provide the early assistance that can help save a life. So far 50,000 Canadians have been trained.
ACADEMIC PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS
A host of papers will be released throughout the conference. A number of presentation and discussion sessions will also be held, highlighting mental health programs from across the country. Among the presentations made today were:
- Evaluation of the National Time to Change Anti-Stigma Mass Media Campaign.
- Eliminating Stigma: A focus on Seniors' Mental Health.
- "Nothing for Us Without us" At Home/Chez Soi Project on mental health and homelessness.
- Shifting Identities: Empowerment through the Arts.
About the Mental Health Commission of Canada
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for change. We are collaborating with hundreds of partners 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 and illnesses lead meaningful and productive lives. Together, we are sparking change. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is funded by Health Canada.
About Opening Minds
Opening Minds is the MHCC's anti-stigma initiative designed to change the attitudes and behaviours of Canadians towards those living with a mental health problem or illness. The initiative is currently evaluating anti-stigma programs across Canada to identify which are successful at changing attitudes and behaviours related to mental illnesses. The successful programs are replicated elsewhere in the country. Opening Minds is also working with journalism schools and the media to identify myths and misconceptions associated with mental illness to create a network of change and decrease stigma.
The views represented herein solely represent the views of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Production of this document is made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada.
For further information:
Jacqueline (Jacquie) LaRocque
[email protected] (email preferred)