The stigma of mental illness

Raissa Tetanish
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Schizophrenia Society working to change peoples perceptions

Hoping to eliminate the destructive issue of stigma in the lives of the mentally ill, the local branch of the Schizophrenia Society will be offering a family support program starting April 16.

"For someone with a mental illness, the consequence of stigma can be devastating - in some cases worse than the illness itself," said Sharon Murphy, director and board member for the local branch.

The stigma of mental illness

Hoping to eliminate the destructive issue of stigma in the lives of the mentally ill, the local branch of the Schizophrenia Society will be offering a family support program starting April 16.

"For someone with a mental illness, the consequence of stigma can be devastating - in some cases worse than the illness itself," said Sharon Murphy, director and board member for the local branch. "People don't seek treatment for mental illness because they often fear being labeled or rejected by family and friends. Some people become socially isolated because of the shame engendered by the stigma."

Stigma is a mark of disgrace or shame with four components: labelling someone with a condition, stereotyping people with that condition creating a division of a superior 'us' group and a devalued 'them' group, resulting in a loss of status in the community, and discriminating against someone on the basis of their label.

"Mental illnesses continue to be stigmatized because mental illness implies a distinction from physical illness, although the two are intimately entwined," Murphy added. "To some, the term 'mental' suggests not a legitimate medical condition, but rather something that results from his or her own doing."

Murphy and local branch representative and provincial board member Lorraine MacDonald will be offering the program, entitled Strengthening Families Together, which will be held every Monday at Trinity St. Stephen's United Church from 7 to 9 p.m. It's a 10-week program (taking into consideration the long weekend in May) that ends June 23.

For more information, contact Sharon Murphy at 669-0888 or Lorraine MacDonald at 597-3234.



rtetanish@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Schizophrenia Society, United Church

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