Stigma-reduction projects ramp up for the fall

In its efforts to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, MHCC’s Opening Minds is currently working on multiple research and behavioural change projects in partnership with more than 100 programs and organizations across the country. As it prepares its interim report aligned with the MHCC’s strategic priorities, Opening Minds is proceeding with projects focused on target groups like youth, health care providers, media and the workforce. Highlights include:

  • National Youth Anti-Stigma Campaign 
    Young people experiencing mental health problems and illness are the most vulnerable and most stigmatized demographic group in society, with 70 per cent of adults with mental illness saying symptoms began in their teens or early 20s. For these reasons, Opening Minds is developing a national Youth Anti-Stigma Campaign aimed at fostering health-seeking behaviours among young people, creating more supportive environments and ultimately reducing the stigma and misconceptions affecting this group. The campaign will start with outreach to school boards across the country, and recruitment of teachers and students leading up to a National Summit in 2014. The summit will train teachers and student champions in the fundamentals of promoting mental health and how to organize their own regional summits and “booster sessions” to keep the spotlight on positive mental health within their schools and communities.
  • Process Model for Youth Programs 
    Opening Minds has finished evaluating a number of youth anti-stigma programs. Based on research gathered, a “process model” is being developed that will be shared with organizations to help them determine the effectiveness of their own anti-stigma programs aimed at youth, or to create frameworks for new programs. The model is being refined at this time, with implementation targeted for fall 2013. Similar models are being considered for health care providers and for the workplace. 
  • Stigma and the Media 
    A media guide for reporters and editors is being developed in partnership with the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma, and will be tested by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The guide will build on the work of researchers at McGill University who examined the language and tone in news coverage of mental illness. This landmark research project – possibly the largest of its kind in the world – set out to determine the media’s impact on stereotypes and misconceptions of mental illness, and the resulting stigma. Research results were published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
  • The Working Mind in Nova Scotia 
    Opening Minds has adapted a successful program designed to enhance the mental health of military personnel. Developed by the Canadian Department of National Defence, “The Road to Mental Readiness” features a simple chart of four colours – green, yellow, orange and red – with green signifying good health and red signifying serious risk. It uses a colour chart (or continuum model) to help individuals assess their mental wellness and seek help when necessary. Adapting the language and other elements to fit a traditional workplace environment, the MHCC’s new program – called The Working Mind – will begin pilot testing in Nova Scotia this fall. Trainers from the provincial government, Capital District Health Authority and Nova Scotia Community College will soon put the new tool through its paces.
  • Smart Phone App for Students 
    Opening Minds senior consultant Heather Stuart is developing content for a smart phone application (app) that will give students in high schools and universities insights into their own mental health. Based on the Department of National Defence’s Road to Mental Readiness program, the app will indicate mental health according to the colour continuum, green to red. By answering a series of questions, students will be able to quickly see where they place on the continuum – from week to week they may find themselves moving back and forth – with emphasis on staying in the green. With this knowledge, users who place in the orange or red range will be able to seek appropriate help. Design, testing and launch of the app will occur in the fall of 2013.