Together Against Stigma: Healthcare providers, youth on the agenda on Day 2 of world's largest mental health stigma conference in Ottawa

OTTAWA, June 5, 2012 /CNW/ - Stigma towards people with mental illness ignores geographical borders, according to a major study that was released today on Day 2 of a three-day international conference hosted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada 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 conference organized by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the World Psychiatric Association Scientific Section on Stigma and Mental Illness.

One of the many pieces of academic research that was discussed today at the conference found that stigma against those with schizophrenia was pervasive in all 27 countries studied, including Canada, the U.S. and most European countries.

Regardless of where they live, the British study found people with schizophrenia commonly experience negative discrimination in making or keeping friends, from family members, in both finding and keeping jobs, and in their personal relationships.

The 5th annual International Stigma Conference follows on the heels of the MHCC launching the country's first national mental health strategy ( last month and the recent World Health Assembly proceedings in Geneva.

In addition to global patterns of mental health stigma, key themes examined by presenters and delegates on Day 2 of the conference included the need to build better mental health practices for healthcare providers and youths.

"This kind of research confirms something that many of us see on a daily basis — that stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness is equally pervasive and debilitating regardless of where it happens," said Heather Stuart, Chair of the World Psychiatric Association Scientific Section. "International conferences such as this one are important so experts and health professionals around the world can learn from each other and share information."

"For a long time, we've tolerated poor quality services for those with mental illness, for example second class physical health care, and I think we have to stand up and say this is a scandal," said Graham Thornicroft, of King's College London, Institute of Psychiatry.

Two Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) sessions were also held at the conference today — one for Parliamentarians and one for delegates. MHFA teaches people the skills to provide the early assistance that can help save a life.  So far 50,000 Canadians have been trained.

Award-winning actress and mental health advocate Glenn Close, her sister Jessie Close and nephew Calen Pick were keynote speakers on the conference's opening day. Together they founded an organization working to eradicate the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness after Jessie Close and Calen Pick faced life-and-death battles with mental illness.

The conference continues Wednesday, June 6 at the Delta Ottawa City Centre, 101 Lyon St., Ottawa. 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

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.


A host of academic presentations will be released throughout the conference.  Among the papers and presentations released today were:

  • Evaluation of a New Mental Health Training Program for Canadian Military Personnel Returning from a Combat and Peace Support mission in Afghanistan.
  • Coming out Proud.
  • Addressing Stigma and Discrimination related to Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Issues.
  • Stomping Out Stigma: Summit Conference for Youth.

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.

SOURCE Mental Health Commission of Canada

For further information:

Jacqueline (Jacquie) LaRocque (email preferred)
(613) 614-6339

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