Discrimination has been around since the beginning of time, throughout history we’ve been working to challenge this, we’re integrating people of all different colours and nationalities, we’re working towards gender equality, we’re becoming an inclusive society treating everyone equally… Or are we?
People with mental illnesses currently face a high rate of discrimination, this discrimination is more complex and harder to face though because you can’t see it. There’s no way to look at someone and know if they have a mental illness so it’s harder for people to face. The current stigma against mental illness is that people with a mental illness are dangerous or scary, that we are out of control and capable of things only dreamt of in your wildest nightmares, but what is the reality and where is it when we need it?
The Canadian Mental Health Association states that 20% of Canadians will have a mental illness in their life time, that’s one out of every five people. Indirectly we’re all effected by mental illness because we see it every day, we know people who are suffering, and we can understand the basic details. Most people could define depression or anxiety, most people have heard of eating disorders, schizophrenia, personality disorders, addictions, and a variety of mental illnesses, yet the discrimination rages on. For most people suffering from a serious mental illness the stigma and discrimination is far more painful and overwhelming that the mental illness itself.
Breaking the stigma and getting rid of the discrimination, a task for everyone. With the use of new technologies people are beginning to realize that mental illness is not in fact “all in your head” it’s all in your brain. At Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto researchers are currently using functional MRI machines to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder, they’ve discovered there are many differences in the way people think after having experienced trauma. Perhaps in the future there will be concrete ways to diagnose most, or all mental illnesses.
Many organizations are now looking at ways of breaking the stigma, the jack project, CAMH, Sick Kids hospital, the mental health commission of Canada, the United Nations, and thousands of other organizations are working to tackle this goal but this is only a small percentage of our society. Everyone has the power to change the future of themselves, their loved ones, and all members of society. The future is in your hands, and in your mind.