Excerpt form Media Release prepared by youth participants, Jessie, 24 and Vicky, 17
"Stigma and stereotypes are often thought of as judgments against particular groups or people in society. Some people believe that stigma comes from a place of truth – but we believe that stigma really comes from fear of the unknown and a desire to put people in boxes."
Our goal, as the mindyourmind Anti-Stigma Fall Team 2006, is to break down the negative misperceptions associated with mental health.
Our eight member team took on the mission of mindyourmind.ca, a youth mental health website, dedicated to promoting positive mental health and to reducing the barriers that surround reaching out for help.
When most people think of mental illness, they usually think of the most dramatic diagnoses, like bi-polar, schizophrenia and psychosis. However, in reality conditions like anxiety disorders, depression and ADD are far more common. The aim of the Anti-Stigma Campaign is not only to address the stigma surrounding the major diagnoses but also these more common conditions. On a daily basis youth are bombarded with messages from the media, their peers, and entertainment outlets that mental illness is identifiable by appearance. This is not the case. Mental illness often hides behind appearances and is often invisible.
To reduce this overwhelming negativity and misperceptions, our team has created a collection of materials, that will be available at no cost online, which we hope will open dialogue to creating a stigma free environment.
The mindyourmind Anti-Stigma Team believe that these materials will go a long way to change negative perceptions about mental health and will serve to promote a more open dialogue amongst youth and those that care for them. As well, we expect that an increased awareness of the support available at mindyourmind.ca will continue to be an ongoing resource for youth.
What we created...
Our first postcard is entitled, “MP3”. It is a culturally conscious message written on a popular MP3 player format. This was designed to capture youth attention by putting our message on a familiar medium.
The second postcard, “The Maze”, directed to those who may feel lost in the maze of mental illness, pointing out they can find their way out withmindyourmind.ca.
The Anti-Stigma Team was able to brainstorm two very different styles to engage young people in this mental health dialogue.
The first poster, “Talk About It”, was inspired by the topic of suicide. This timely issue was married with images of graffiti street art to deliver what we believe is a powerful message about suicide and how to make a difference.
The second poster, “Yearbook”, looks at the broader picture of the facelessness of mental illness. This poster targets the misconception that mental illness can be identified through appearance.
I had previously volunteered for mindyourmind.ca and it was a great experience but the commitment as far as time was way too much to commit to again in my twelfth year of high school. I did, however, want to participate in something meaningful and because of the 2 weekend time period, the Anti-Stigma campaign was perfect for me.
I see the stigma surrounding mental health everyday. Friends who are feeling depressed, suicidal, full of anxiety and they don’t want to turn for help. So many youth are full of fear: fear of rejection, fear of being alone, fear of being looked down on by parents or peers and the fear of opening up to a complete stranger. Sometimes this stigma even leads to people killing themselves. I’ve had 3 people in my life commit suicide and that’s what drives me to want to stop the stigma.
I hope to send out the message that it’s okay and no one is alone. 1 in 5 people suffer from a mental illness! I hope that the messages we send out reach at least one person who will think twice before ending a life so beautiful over a stigma that’s so ugly.