Skip navigation

The branding that devalues

Globe and Mail Update

Stigma against the mentally ill is getting both worse and better, as attitudes polarize ...Read the full article

This conversation is closed

  1. Jude Driscoll from Charlottetown, Canada writes: Mental health / mental fitness can be cultivated. Yet sevices for timely and accurate diagnosis and treatment for the illness part
    are not often readily available in rural Canada. How can the necessary expertise become more available?

    Ongoing support services require funding such that families do not get burned out with the 24 / 7 'Let's keep our family member safe'.

    Our tax dollars need to be more equitabley shared with physical health expenditures. This Commission is a great beginning!
  2. Emma Hawthorne from Canada writes: But if you take the time to ask the seriously mentally ill when that devaluing stings most - many say it occurs when they arrive at hospital and later when then their opinions, especially about wanting to be productive, are merely shunted aside. Also, as psychiatry hasn't yet officially announced that it seriously mislabelled a significant proportion of Canadian patients with illnesses that generated generous OHIP billings until the early 1990s but were not actually appropriate, how many lives haver been laid waste by labelling due to incompetence or even medical insurance fraud? Such mislabelling had also been common in the 1950s and 1960s when insitutions could obtain higher per diems for patients with more serious labelling.
  3. Olivia Twist from Canada writes: You'd think that with a couple of church ministers and several members in the social services sector, ours would be a family shining with love, understanding and acceptance towards those in its midst who think, feel, believe and behave differently. Wrong. Much branding has gone on over the years, as well as numerous acts of exclusion. I used to drive myself crazy trying to expose and denounce the blatant contradictions, the scapegoating, the rejection. I felt lonely and terribly angry and at the same time, lived my own contradictions by trying to belong to the very group that caused so much pain in my life. Until one day, my therapist said, 'Tell me, Olivia, how many people are there in your family?' 'Ten all together,' I said. 'Okay. Now tell me, how many people are there on this planet?' I raised an eyebrow. 'I don't know. Something like seven billion?' 'Right. So why do you restrict yourself to looking for love and understanding among a small group of ten people, when there are seven billion people out there among whom you could choose?' Duh. Except that I didn't say 'duh' right away. Family is family, right? The one group we're taught to believe will love and accept us through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, until death do us apart. Once I accepted that's not always the case, I began looking elsewhere for the sense of belonging I so desperately needed. Iíve found it in all kinds of unexpected places, including this forum on mental illness.
  4. Rex Bradley from Oakville, Canada writes: I don't care what its called, something needs to be done; It should start on the grate sleepers and then rid the streets of pan handlers. Bring back VAG-C and get the needy out of our streets. We need a Stalinesque gulag for the sociopaths.
  5. Harold A. Maio from Ft Myers FL, United States Outlying writes: 'Stigma against 'the' mentally ill?' The Globe seems to believe we are generic, that responses to us are generic. The Globe errs.

    We are as diverse as any other group. Most of us are not defined by others -or ourselves- by that single label, or by any single label, though clearly not all.

    Are there people who believe there is a 'the' Blacks, a 'the' Jews? Indeed. Is the Globe among them? One hopes not.

    I have never experienced or internalized a 'stigma,' nor do I assign that prejudice (that is what it is) to any other person. When confronted with a prejudice, I address it directly, as I am doing here.

    Are there people trained to impose prejudices? Indeed. I choose not to be among the trainers.

    Harold A. Maio
    Advisory Board
    American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation
    Board Member
    Partners in Crisis
    Former Consulting Editor
    Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal
    Boston University
    Language Consultant
    UPENN Collaborative on Community Integration
    of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities
    8955 Forest St
    Ft Myers FL 33907
  6. Antonio San from Canada writes: Ex Senator Kirby? The dogmatic collectivist health care advocate?... Your responsibility Sir!
  7. v cos11 from Saskatoon, Canada writes: Here's an experience worth telling. I suffer from clinical depression - in the States it's called unipolar. I went home to London, On, a couple of years ago - I thought it would be better to be close to family. After a couple of months in a shelter I got into subsidized housing. Problem was, the welfare cheque was cut in half and I was left with $160 to exist for 30 days. I wanted to stay in my hometown and this nice apartment that was given to me and try and contribute to my community. So what happened? the medication I was on continued to go downhill as far as effectiveness was concerned, I was becoming very suicidal and I was without a family doctor and I had little money to continue on. On top of everything the Landlord and caretaker of this apartment complex - especially set aside for people with mental disabilities - I found cold and distant. All the time I spent in London On, I never felt like people took my illness very seriously. I looked fine on the outside so how could there be any problems. I was afraid to apply for a disability pension because I was told by many they won't take you seriously. If they only knew of the struggles with suicidal thinking I experienced and continue to occassionally battle or the chronic insomnia I continue to experience. I eventually had to leave London for the West after borrowing a few sheckles from family. I have found better medication to be on, but I struggle on a daily basis. I recently had a major setback, but will not give up hope. I pray that attitudes and empathy will change towards those of us that are mentally ill.
  8. ellen m from ontario, Canada writes: I too, have tried to help people understand me and they turn away. or ignore what you say, I look fine on the out side but on the inside it is a constant struggle. health care professionals rush you through appointments. the crisis nurse thinks I am full of crap. I explain, and tell these people over and over, what I am dealing with. a question was asked by an psychiatrist. how do I know I am having these problems?
    I said because people tell me I am acting and saying weird thing. I am told I am not the person I once was. but will these people step up with me and talk to the doctors. no!! I have become afraid to go to the emergency room because I am afraid nobody is going to take me seriously. so what do I do?? all mental health services are an hour away. plus they take the summers off. WHAT IS THAT ABOUT!?
    does that mean people with mental issues take the summer off as well??

    I am fed up with having NO help! NO GUIDANCE! NO COUNSELING!
    something needs to done and I am tired of this crap! tired of this life.
    tired of everything.
    one question I am always asked at the doctors. Do you think of death and dying, (all the time I do) Do you have a plan? NO!
    Im, sorry I would not have a plan! If I feel too I will end it. but that isn't considered a danger to my self!
    if anything that would drive me to take my life would be the lack of caring, lack of help. lack of understanding, being shut out from society.
    I hate that there is nothing. Nothing to give me hope. It is a closed topic! something really has to be down I am tired of waiting. I have posted many comments on here....not using my real name of course....I know nothing will come of this Is this a wast of time??
    I have been waiting for almost two years. I am afraid I will blow soon.
    because of this crappy system. OH! I mean NO SYSTEM!
  9. v cos11 from Saskatoon, Canada writes: hang in there Ellen M. there are lots of folks out there - including me that are rooting for you. the universe will provide if you keep reaching out.
  10. ellen m from ontario, Canada writes: Thanks v cos11- I know I am not the only one out there. maybe I am mad because everything I had been telling people over the past 2 yrs
    is validated now!

    I have so much compassion for people now and I will always be there for people if they ever need me. One friend of mine had breast cancer.
    she told me her phone was ringing of the hook asking if she needed anything. That made me I didn't count!

    The many people that are reading this and making no comments that is okay. I know we all feel the same. when it comes to treatment or lack of.

    as for the doctors nurses etc. some of you do have the compassion but one or two people aren't going to change society. there is this one doctor who has the compassion which I wish was my gp. this doctor has seen me at my worst twice. there is a some others as well. but in all reality there hands are tide. we cannot blame this on health care workers. I do believe some do try there best. If there is no services out there. and waiting lists are long.

    to tell you how crazy I am I told my retired therapist. if I don't get a call soon from hamilton I will camp out there till I get the help I need!
    most likely I would get arrested and put me jail....ha!!

    or have a march in front of parliament. Its worth a try right! but It would be these kind of things that may wake up our society. we as a group need to stick up for our selves and stick up for others who can't be a part. I am tired of being last for treatment. I am more then willing to make a noise to make society realize that we are people too!
  11. robert quinn from Japan writes: Well, I see Emma's posted, so I feel duty-bound to kick sand all over her comments, and every other certain-to-be-offended sufferer. You, the hordes of mentally ill (20% of the population, according to Michael Kirby...why is it old soldiers fade away but old Liberals end up with lucrative government sinecures? And when you factor in the multitudes with cancer, spina bifida, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, heroin addiction, existential ennui, etc., it's a wonder there's anyone capable of showing up for work), who spend their days feeling misunderstood, picked on, ignored or suicidal, may be missing the big picture. A nurse with many years of experience once told me such is what happens when one-pound babies survive. For whatever reason--bad luck, bad genes--there's something wrong with your wiring. Sorry. But it could be no amount of money, drugs or professional bafflegab will help. Long ago, a lion would have spotted you lagging behind, distraught, and...culled you. All things considered, that might not have been the worst thing to happen, in a circle-of-life sense. Maybe you really would be happier dead. The question should be: Could I feel worse than I do right now if I top myself? And if you're dead, and an atheist, the answer has to There are organizations other than the Mental Health Commission that can satisfy your sincere longing for an EXIT from emotional hell. No pain, no shame.
  12. Edward Ertl from Bathurst, NB, Canada writes: To Robert Quin and his like minded ilk.
    A psychopath couldn't have said it better. How many of our great inventors and artists were abnormal; people like Einstein, Mozart, Nichola Tesla and Many Others? Without the genius of people wired unlike the cynics, psychopaths, predators and worse amongst us, we would indeed still be living in a more savage world!
    I bite my tongue.
  13. ellen m from ontario, Canada writes: Robert Quinn- every body has a right to free speech, I feel Emma has a lot of excellent comments- among others I live in ontario. I don't have programs at my fingertips. I would have to drive almost 2hrs away to go to groups. therapy, etc. who is going to pay for my gas. and I don't highway drive and will not!

    the services in my area alone are lacking because of funding not available. I had a therapist but she retired and and there is not a
    replacement! I have to be referred again with a lone waiting list.

    there are no psychiatrists in my area, nobody is taking patients I have been looking for over a year.

    Till I became sick I have been working at some job for 20 yrs never missing a day of work. I managed employees in a company.
    STRESS triggered everything I am going through today!!
    You know how some people have heartattacks. I would rather be physically sick. at least I would know I wouldn't have a waiting period of two yrs. further more mine Is inherited from my mothers side of the family. I did not ask to be this way. No one can see that I am suffering internally. everybody assumes IM healed!!

    I have contact many different places I didn't hear back from any one!
    I am trying to find my way further more these places and groups that happen are still almost two hrs away...... do you have a better solution.....instead of kicking sand over people comment???
  14. Miss Piggy from Canada writes: Robert Quinn, may the hair in your nostrils grow ten feet every hour on the hour from now on until the end of times.
  15. annick aubert from toronto, Canada writes: I am addressing my comments to Olivia first . Olivia I do not doubt that you are suffering from the way your family treats you, but not all families mistreat their loved ones, often our loved ones think we mistreat them, when all we do is try not to hurt them further. This past week I spent most of my days on the computer reading and posting a few comments. My family member is feeling the stress I am under, and even though he came home from bingo at 2.30 this A.M, went out for a walk around 4, he wanted to go to the 1PM bingo session, usually Sundays I manage to hang on til the 4 PM session ! Today I wanted to write to you so I forked out the money early. He is going to be back and if I do not give any more money he will panhandle in front of the building, for all the neighbours to worry about their real estate value. You will think that giving in on such small demands is no big deal, I agree but when it is every day and more than once a day it gets to be too much for most families. One person in another province is calling his family member in Toronto, earlier this month, the person asked for $200 to pay the phone bill, then $150 to cover prescription glasses, because the Provincial benefits covered only a plain frame that was too ugly ! The family member does not want to lose touch, and is getting into debt. Last night I took a call from another family member the ill member in another city saw a food blender advertised on TV and wants it. He called collect each time the ad appeared, he also wants Australian boots that are available only from a store in Toronto. Last time the family member drove 150 miles to see the person, the person refused to see the parent ,saying ' What is the use we always argue. Olivia it is also very painful for us family members. I hope you find a little bit of quiet and some enjoyment of life.
  16. Olivia Twist from Canada writes: Annick, thank you for your kind response. One problem with these posts is that everything that we say is said out of context -- we cannot, nor would we want to, explain all the details. Like you, I have spent many hours on the computer this week reading the articles and the posts. Based on the examples you provide, I fully understand where you're coming from, and why you want to give me the other side of the story. I think both sides are important to tell. The point I wanted to make is that sometimes, health comes from learning how to detach ourselves from situations and/or people that make us sick. And that sometimes includes family. It doesn't mean you stop loving them, not necessarily. It does mean, however, that you learn how not to let them rule the way you feel about yourself. It is no easy thing to do, trust me. The example you give in your post, for instance, about a family member depending financially on another -- been there, done that. Based on the details you provide, the requests are unreasonable. Years ago, I would have given the money and then felt resentful. Today, I just say no. And if that means the other person feels resentful towards me, so be it. Detachment, as someone else mentioned in another post, is crucial for health in many situations.
  17. ellen m from ontario, Canada writes: I give all the families great praise In dealing with and supporting your loved ones and there illness. I know it has to be tough on you all as well.
    this is too a reason why things should change as well, families suffer as well. I know my family most likely suffers though things I am sure.
    But my greatest hope in this world would be I would want them to show they care. there should be more support for every one involved, as well as funding for families to help support the ones who are sick. supporting takes a big chunk out of you pocket. when they may want want want.
  18. Emma Hawthorne from Canada writes: Opressive psychiatry drove me to be a secret filer with the 'home office' when I volunteered to sit on a psychiatric hospital restructuring committee about 10 years ago. I could never grasp why the official minutes of our discussions always ignored the single male and female patient survivors and all of the female committee members who were psychologists, social workers and a lawyer. Only the opinions of six or seven male psychiatrists ever made the minutes, although the 'committee' meetings were moderated and minutes written by a female provincial appointee. When I telephoned the provincial office I learned that there was a great demand for input from all of those ignored in the minutes, I began filing my own reports in which I tried to address patient issues and comments made. Regrettably I kept my communiques under wraps. Even the dominating psychiatrists who felt they were the only important or viable voice at the table, spoke very cautiously so as to not ruffle the feathers of any fellow psychiatrist. Finally, deciding that unless I could raise a valid issue my presence was only propping up this fiasco, I ventured that I believed only psychologists had the requisite training and scholastic backgrouds to design effective programs and that they needed to head up such ventures. This met with predicable silence, remarkably even from one startled psychologist. I argued that the services were built for the patients and had to serve them not professionals. More silence. Psychiatric nurses pointed out that addictions were the major issue for patients but that emergency staffs at general hospitals had no relevant training. All agreed housing was key. When the patient-surviors finally spoke they desperately wanted to be employed, listened to and most of all respected when they arrived at hospital in a crisis. 'We're sick and tired of just getting treated like sh__!' I hope they will finally be heard. I later learned the non-shrinks were silent for fear of losing jobs.
  19. Emma Hawthorne from Canada writes: Continuing from above, I think the system will not be fixed as long as those with information must keep it to themselves for fear of losing their careers. We need respectful open debates on treatments, based on research and results. I would also like to know why psychologists were routed from hospitals recently as it seems to me that psychiatry is doing all it can to hang onto the past and any power it had, patient interests notwithstanding. I would also like to know why it is still fashionable for psychiatry to keep patients in the dark about too many issues. Wouldn't honest feedback be appreciated and often be stabilising? Also, I think patients need the opportunity to provide feedback without feeling their comments will be noted as delusions and added to their charts. Finally, we need a code of ethics for psychiatry and a bill of rights for patients.
  20. Emma Hawthorne from Canada writes: Hi Robert Quinn. Just because I offered a little thoughfult critcism does not make me 'mentally ill' or even a patient, no matter how many self-focused professionals might wish I had no right to comment or that my comments should be 'properly' ignored. Offering a little input into a broken system that has been mismanaged so badly by so many thoughtless and greedy people is a very healthy citizen activity. I hope more will do it, even if they have to use pseudonyms to protect their positions/treatment/families from a possible or likely backlash even petty commentator attack.
  21. F K from Canada writes: Mr. Picard has given the Commission a good framework for the national strategy. Even if a bit cutsey, the 12 steps reasonate. Just add a dose of mental health promotion.
  22. robert quinn from Japan writes: I am a heartless prick. It must be true, else why would I write such as appeared above? For the very reason that it is verboten to entertain these thoughts, let alone state them baldly. Let me boil it down further: Your problems are your problems. I have my own, and they keep me fully-occupied. I should be under no obligation whatsoever to devote a second of my time to your existence. That I am willing to do so--to a degree--comes from my understanding that I am--again, to a degree--my brother's keeper. But there comes a point when you prune the sick branch or lose the tree. Sooner rather than later, decade-long Commission mission notwithstanding, the money will run out. We won't be able to pay for all those doctors, therapists, pharmacists, counsellors, community support personnel, etc., the Commission is sure to recommend the government fund. (This assumes 'The Green Shift' is never realized. Should the siphoning off of western provincial treasuries succeed, of course, we may well see the dream society of progressives erected, and Canada become the world's first economy eventually given over entirely to health care. There'd be two classes of people then: the many, many sick, and those paid to care for them. The government would simply print money to cover the costs. Heaven.)
  23. ellen m from ontario, Canada writes: I see where you are coming from, maybe they should take away heart specialists, knee replacement, diabetic doctors and cancer treatments and so on. they get treated to have a better life, lets them take away the benefits for seniors and just let them fad away. they lived there life.
    It is a never ending battle! all these people get treated in Canada's health care. yes, it costs money, it is time we get treated in the same respect as anybody else. I did some research last night. to validate,
    that where I live in the Niagara Region, there is NO psychiatrists, no counselors, no psychologists etc. do you see where I am coming from?
    In my situation, I am looking for help and there is no help available for me. as well as others in my area. I want to be helped just like a diabetic needs their insulin to survive. In all reality I do want a better quality of life.
    there are ways the Canadians could have cut backs.
    how much has Canada spend on the war oversea's. how much advertisement has the government spend with quitting smoking.
    people are going to smoke whether they want to or not. how much money goes into elections. how much money is spent supporting new arrivals in canada. there is money to support mental health. and to put clinic's around the country so the people with mental illness and there family are able to receive the care they deserve!
  24. Meg C. from Canada writes: Regarding reducing stigma... I personally hope "mental illness" becomes a term of the past.. it is so outdated and only reinforces the notion of "sickness" re: people's personal challenges. Perhaps in raising awareness of the legitimacy of mental health concerns, there can be another way to frame these issues rather than refering to people who have them as "ill."
  25. ellen m from ontario, Canada writes: Thanks Meg, you made a very good point. I will start saying mental Health Issue's from now on....It Is so weird that I didn't catch what I was saying. that is a prime example how the picture has been painted for us over time. as well as me saying that about myself.
  26. Olivia Beck from Canada writes: robert quinn from Japan writes: Well, I see Emma's posted, so I feel duty-bound to kick sand all over her comments, and every other certain-to-be-offended sufferer. You, the hordes of mentally ill (20% of the population, according to Michael Kirby...why is it old soldiers fade away but old Liberals end up with lucrative government sinecures? And when you factor in the multitudes with cancer, spina bifida, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, heroin addiction, existential ennui, etc., it's a wonder there's anyone capable of showing up for work), who spend their days feeling misunderstood, picked on, ignored or suicidal, may be missing the big picture. A nurse with many years of experience once told me such is what happens when one-pound babies survive. For whatever reason--bad luck, bad genes--there's something wrong with your wiring. Sorry. But it could be no amount of money, drugs or professional bafflegab will help. Long ago, a lion would have spotted you lagging behind, distraught, and...culled you. All things considered, that might not have been the worst thing to happen, in a circle-of-life sense. Maybe you really would be happier dead. The question should be: Could I feel worse than I do right now if I top myself? And if you're dead, and an atheist, the answer has to There are organizations other than the Mental Health Commission that can satisfy your sincere longing for an EXIT from emotional hell. No pain, no shame. Posted 29/06/08 at 10:45 AM EDT | Alert an Editor | Link to Comment --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This comment is disgusting. Shame on you.
  27. Karisa V from Canada writes: Robert Coil.. you (and the nurse) couldn't be more wrong. The brain is naturally able to rewire itself. Not only that, but neurons and hormones can be changed, even without medication. Therapy can do this. If someone is depressed and thus low on seritonin, once the underlying problem is fixed (emotional trauma, etc..) the seritonin levels go to normal. For further reading (since clearly you are quite ignorant about the brain and psychology) I suggest you read "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Dr Norman Doidge. And for those of you suffering, my heart and my sympathies go out to you. This book may be helpful to you as well. There is hope. There is help. There is happiness.
  28. Jenny Biggar from toronto, Canada writes: People only do what is best for themselves and that is why people report crimes. People with mentall illnesses need to learn other methods of screwing people over.
  29. Brian Mah from Canada writes: The comments in the article about mental health professionals being more biased against the mentally ill seem to reflect what I experienced. I saw a psychiatrist for depression in the early to mid-1980s and he never took my complaints about the behaviour of my family members seriously. My mom was into tough love and my brother was bullying me at the time. I went to a mental health day program twice where much of the staff were like Nurse Ratched from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest". It was like a communist dictatorship in which the staff were determined to run my life and exert control over me. The social worker was a nasty bully. I ended up with a supportive nurse at the local mental health unit and she somehow got my family to change the way they treated me. I still have no idea what she said to my parents but the situation at home became much better. Unfortunately, this was after I was matched up with an alcoholic at the day program by the staff. The alcoholic began making nuisance phone calls for several years until she finally stopped. I stopped going to appointments in 1988 when my nurse went on maternity leave and then I didn't resume my appointments because the alcoholic had stopped phoning at the end of the month when I was supposed to resume my appointments. At the end of 1989, my dad set up an appointment for me and I found my former nurse from the day program working at the mental health unit. The supportive nurse I had at the mental health unit ended up leaving and I ended up with a new nurse. I met with her and with the nurse I had from the day program to complain about my experience at the day program. He gave me the runaround. Then the nurses' union went on strike and I didn't resume my appointments. My dad insisted I see someone. I saw a psychiatrist and complained about the day program. The psychiatrist let me out of the system. I was so happy. I began to improve mentally and physically. I was riding a bicycle often.
  30. Brian Mah from Canada writes: To add to my earlier comments... I was doing quite well around 1990 to 1991. Riding a bicycle is really therapeutic. Unfortunately, my dad wanted me to socialize more with other people. I was a bit of a loner. I was urged to go back into the mental health system. I went to a different day program at the same facility where the first day program was. The staff there were like communists too. I think of it as social communism. They wanted me to have a relationship with the designated female patient that they chose for me. I don't know of many young people who would want their parents or teachers choosing their romantic partners for them. I found the experience to be quite unpleasant. This was from 1991 to 1993. I then dropped out of this second day program. In 1994, I began to hallucinate. I attribute this to the stress I had gone through. I think I could have avoided hallucinating if I had stayed out of the mental health system. I was doing so well just riding a bicycle before I went back to the system. Now I have to take medication for schizophrenia. I have been told that I will have to take medication for the rest of my life. I don't believe that. John Nash, the great mathematician portrayed by Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind" actually recovered from schizophrenia. He doesn't have to take medication anymore. The movie is different from the book. I recommend that people read the book. My own opinion about recovery is that some people will recover from schizophrenia and some can't. I think the people with schizophrenia are individuals who have different places on the spectrum and that those who have less severe cases are better able to recover. My mom and my brother don't seem happy when I talk about my outlook for recovery. I think I am capable of making a recovery if I can live a good quality life. I hope to get back on the bicycle soon. It is difficult now because the garage is full of file boxes. I think running is also helpful.

Comments are closed

Thanks for your interest in commenting on this article, however we are no longer accepting submissions. If you would like, you may send a letter to the editor.

Report an abusive comment to our editorial staff


Alert us about this comment

Please let us know if this reader’s comment breaks the editor's rules and is obscene, abusive, threatening, unlawful, harassing, defamatory, profane or racially offensive by selecting the appropriate option to describe the problem.

Do not use this to complain about comments that don’t break the rules, for example those comments that you disagree with or contain spelling errors or multiple postings.

Back to top