This is week four of our stigma posts – we are discussing the acronym U.N.I.T.E¹ a campaign to end stigma that started in Canada. UNITE = Understand, Nurture, Include Others, Talk, Embrace

We’ve gone through the U, N, & I this week we elaborate on “T” which stands for talk. Here is what the site says about it: “Start talking! Start speaking up- whether in forums, in blogs, in person, to your family, or friends…everywhere. When you are on your social media channels, and there is an opportunity to talk about mental health awareness, take it.”

Image that reads: You Have a Voice

There is a lot of evidence to support that this suggestion is effective. Anecdotally we see attitudes change all the time after one of our peers speaks at an event, addresses legislators or opens up to family/friends/co-workers. Research also supports the idea that sharing personal stories changes attitudes towards mental illness.

“The statements of (consumers) about their experience of mental health problems and of their contact with a range of services had the greatest and most lasting impact on the target audiences in terms of reducing mental health stigma.”²

When we speak up and share our recovery success stories we discredit the myths and give people a different perspective. The opportunities are everywhere!! Social media is a great platform to spread positive messages of recovery. You can always pepper a bit of your story into conversations highlighting the hope and hard work necessary to achieve recovery. At The Network we like to say this kind of sharing “humanizes” the the situation and makes it harder for people to distance themselves thus reducing the stigma.

This is the first week of Mental Health Awareness Month – why don’t we all utilize the month to spread our message! Let’s make a commitment to be more open and honest about our struggles, chances are you will end up giving someone the courage they need to seek help or speak out. We can conquer stigma one story at a time!

Sources

(1) http://www.theravive.com/end-stigma/

(2) Active Ingredients in Anti-stigma Programmes in Mental Health. Pinfold, V., Thornicroft, G., Huxley, P., Farmer, P. (2005.) International Review of Psychiatry; 17(2):123-31.

U.N.I.T.E to End Stigma Week Four: Talk About It

Amanda Kearney-Smith

I founded the Network as the Executive Director in 2011 and, before that, I was a program director at Mental Health Colorado. My educational background is in Developmental Psychology, but living with bipolar disorder has drawn me to this work. I'm most passionate about protecting the civil rights and dignity of others. In my free time, I love reading, practicing yoga, and spending time with my family here and in Illinois.

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