Creativity unleashed by Sandra Yuen MacKay

Life and art from a unique perspective



Posted by symackay on November 25, 2009 at 10:05 PM

Yesterday I presented at a cafe discussion about stigma. The other speaker presented information on research on stigma and also the difficulties of disclosure in a work situation. One talk or discussion won't change stigma in the minds of the general public but the more information people have, the more of an informed opinion they will make.

If someone hears a positive story of recovery that may counterbalance some of the sensationalized information supplied by the media. By putting a face to mental illness and recovery, I hope to appeal to people's compassion and empathy for those like me.

In my city, the government are streamlining services by combining mental illness and addiction services. This will help those with concurrent illnesses that need help in both areas whereas before they may have had difficulty getting treatment. Roughly, 50 percent of people with mental illness have a substance abuse problem.

However, I would feel double stigmatized if I am seen walking into a mental health and addictions facility. I fear that the general public will assume that all mentally ill persons have a substance abuse problem as well. To many, people with schizophrenia are already perceived as dangerous and violent, which makes it hard for them to attain housing and job opportunities. To disclose to an employer that one has a mental illness can have negative effects. There are professionals in the community who choose not to disclose because it could affect their reputations and credibility.

In an American journal, it was documented that mentally ill persons have a significantly shorter life expectancy, not because of suicide rates, but because of health complications. Some of these complications are due to side effects of medications (like obesity), but also substance abuse, and lack of access to good health care.

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