By: Amanda Kearney-Smith
The acronym U.N.I.T.E¹ comes from a campaign to end stigma that started in Canada. It stands for UNITE = Understand, Nurture, Include Others, Talk, Embrace.
Over the last three weeks we’ve elaborated on the “U” and “N” this week we’ll take a look at the “I” in UNITE which stands for “Include Others”…..
I: Include Others. Inclusiveness is critical and a key part of reducing stigma. People who have mental illness often have compounding difficulties when they also have to deal with the terrible effects of shame and humiliation. Remember to include everyone. Treat all as equal. Do not discriminate. We must be more inclusive as a society, so that no one is left out.
We are often left out of the conversation when it comes to policy decisions and legislation impacting the behavioral health system. One reason I hear for this is = this is a complicated situation and you don’t understand the issues. This is a prime example of stigma! Treating us as if we are unintelligent and incapable of understanding complex issues because we have mental health conditions. This kind of stigma is pervasive and impacts individuals and organizations representing the peer community. This issue obviously not unique to the mental health community and we can learn a thing or two from other marginalized groups who have worked to overcome discrimination.
How do we combat this form of stigma? How do we encourage (demand!) society to be more inclusive? Good question! I think we can learn a lot from the gay rights movement. In a recent Huffington Post article they provide methods used to achieve equality and legalize marriage. It didn’t happen overnight and neither will reducing stigma surrounding mental illness but it will happen!
Are you interested in helping us break down barriers and eliminating stigma? Our advocacy team works hard to raise awareness and offer solutions both during the legislative session and year round. We need more dedicated volunteers to help spread our message – if you are interested click here!
Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have. – Margaret Mead