Countering Discrimination and Stigma
by Promoting Mental Health Recovery and Resiliency
The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery is a coalition of people
with psychiatric diagnoses1 who counter stigma and discrimination
through the evidence of their recovery2.
- Research shows that people recover from mental illness/severe emotional
- People who have psychiatric histories must be included in discussions
concerning them just as other groups are included when decisions are made
- The mental health community needs to focus on wellness promotion and
programs that support recovery and resiliency.
RECOVERY AND TRAUMA
- Trauma—such as bullying, physical and sexual abuse, exposure to violence
or natural disaster, physical and emotional neglect, and general disrespect
of people who appear different or odd—plays a major role in the development
of emotional distress and the diagnosis of mental illness.
- Wellness and recovery services and supports that address trauma are
especially needed for young adults because adolescence and young adulthood
are stressful, transitional times.
- Peer-to-peer support and open dialogues with diverse stakeholders are
two of the most promising methods of engagement for people with histories of
trauma, emotional distress, or mental illness.
MEDIA AND STIGMA/DISCRIMINATION
The media perpetuate the myth
that people with mental illness are more violent than the general
population. Research shows this to be untrue. In fact, people with mental
illnesses are more often victims of violence than perpetrators.
“Nothing about us without us:” Those
of us who have personal experience with recovery from mental illness should
be consulted by the media and others when mental health topics are in the
public policy arena. We can provide a broader understanding of the issues
involved and offer positive solutions. We also can offer information about
selfhelp/advocacy organizations we have developed around the country and
about the active role we are playing in transforming the mental health
system. Allowing others to speak “for” us perpetuates the myth
that we are unable to represent our own interests.
INVOLUNTARY TREATMENT VERSUS VOLUNTARY, PEER-DRIVEN
Involuntary treatment drives people
away from mental health services, is stigmatizing and traumatizing, and will
not prevent violence.
People need an array of voluntary,
peer-driven services and supports, as recommended in the
report of the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. Such
services have a proven track record in helping people recover.
RECOMMENDATIONS ADDRESSED TO YOUNG ADULTS, THE MEDIA AND THE ACADEMIC
Every college campus should offer a
wide array of voluntary services and supports, especially peer-run services
such as the consumer/survivor movement has created. These would include
warm-lines, drop-in centers, stress reduction classes, wellness management,
and overnight respite services, which do not carry the stigma and
discrimination associated with hospitalization. Consumer/survivor-run
statewide groups could offer technical assistance to colleges on developing
such services, which should respect the privacy of students who seek them
Students should be educated about
the traditional and peer-run mental health services and supports available
to them on and off campus. Access to services and supports should be
flexible and without barriers. This may involve professional or peer
counselors reaching out to students who may need support.
School personnel (administrators,
teachers, support staff) should be particularly supportive after a tragedy.
Voluntary debriefing sessions, listening sessions and informational sessions
should be available to help meet the emotional needs of the student
community. Peer-run program staff should take part in or lead some of these
Public education involving
college-age youth telling their stories of recovery would provide hope and
help counter the stigma and discrimination directed towards people labeled
with mental illness. Statewide consumer/survivor groups could mentor
students to help them tell their stories
College teachers, administrators,
counselors and peer counselors should come together in a dialogue with
people diagnosed with mental illness who have recovered, to learn from them
about recovery and peer support.
The media and the public need to be
informed that people with mental illnesses are no more violent than the
The media need to stop fueling
misinformation and myth and revealing private medical information without
consent. The media in the United States should follow Scotland’s lead and
adopt a standard never to mention a person’s diagnosis in their coverage.
Consumer/survivor activists should
work with youth groups such as Active Minds on Campus, The Icarus Project
and State of Mine (New Mexico) through participating in Active Minds’
conference in Washington, D.C., in October 2007, to inform youth of the
consumer/survivor movement and our experiences with recovery.
Youth groups should participate in
Alternatives 2007 (a national conference organized by and for people who
have recovered or are recovering from severe emotional distress/mental
illness) to inform the consumer/survivor movement of the needs of youth.
1 People with psychiatric
histories are also known as consumers and/or survivors.
2 The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA) has defined mental health recovery as a journey of
healing and transformation enabling a person with a mental health problem to
live a meaningful life in a community of his or her choice while striving to
achieve his or her full potential.
available in downloadable
pdf format (120kb, 2 pages)