Ending healthcareproviders’ negativeattitudes toward mentalillnessOne of the barriers that keep peoplewith mental illness from seeking helpis the stigma associated with theirconditions. Sometimes those negativeattitudes and behaviours come fromhealthcare providers.
“Despite the fact that healthprofessionals go into their careerswanting to help people, they aren’timmune from stigmatizing beliefs,attitudes or behaviours,” says Dr. ScottPatten, a researcher funded by AlbertaInnovates – Health Solutions at theUniversity of Calgary’s Department ofPsychiatry.
Patten has been working with theMental Health Commission of Canadaon Opening Minds, a national effortlaunched in 2009 to reduce the stigmaaround mental illness. Through a projectspecifically for healthcare providers, he’sled research evaluating more than 30anti-stigma programs.
The research identified severalfeatures that the most effectiveprograms had in common, such asenthusiastic facilitators, a focus onskill-building and an element of myth-busting. The most effective programsalso put a human face to mental illness.
“A speaker who has recovered frommental illness, who can tell their storyand experiences in a way that minimizesthat social distance, is valuable,” Pattensays.
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