What is stigma?

Stigma comes from a Greek word referring to a mark or brand used to identify criminals, slaves or people considered unworthy so others knew to shun them. In today’s world, people living with a mental illness are not identified with a visual marker. Instead they are often labelled, stereotyped, and feared.

Seven million Canadians will experience a mental illness this year. This means that most of us will know someone who has experienced a mental illness, yet there still exists the troubling and frustrating stigma around mental illnesses and the people living with them. 

What is Opening Minds?

Launched in 2009, Opening Minds aims to bring about changes that will improve the day-to-day lives of people who experience stigma. Rather than reinvent the wheel, Opening Minds recognizes that there is already important anti-stigma work underway across Canada. Its goal is to identify best and promising practices in use today, and to create resources and toolkits that share those practices nationally and internationally.

Opening Minds undertook the largest systematic effort to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses in Canadian history, and is now publishing the results in its interim report.

What is the Opening Minds Interim Report?

The Opening Minds Interim Report is the result of the largest systematic effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness in Canadian history from the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC) anti-stigma initiative, Opening Minds. It was released on November 18, 2013, and details work from its earliest days to the present. The report also highlights some of the important findings of that work, as well as outlining future plans for combating what is one of the most difficult challenges facing people living with mental illnesses and the mental health community.

Initial work of the report focuses on four target groups of:

  • Youth – most adults say their mental illnesses began before age 18 and early intervention can make an important difference in the quality of life;
  • Healthcare providers – People With Lived Experiences (PWLE) say some of the most deeply felt stigma comes from here;
  • Media – based on the role it plays in shaping public opinion;
  • Workforce – countless employees would rather go untreated than face stigma and discrimination from their employers and colleagues.