I was having coffee with a highly intelligent, successful woman. When I told her about my job working in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Division at Vinfen, she responded, “So, people with those illnesses can be rehabilitated? I had no idea.” Somewhat dumbfounded, I explained to her that people with psychiatric conditions do recover. Her knowledge of psychiatric conditions came from the sensational tone and stereotypical portrayal of them in the media. People with mental health conditions often choose not to disclose their status for fear of negative, social repercussions and the pervasive prejudice and discrimination people face when they are open about their illnesses.
This is slowly changing, through an approach that includes both royalty and star power. In the United Kingdom, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are promoting their Heads Together initiative, which seeks to reduce prejudice and discrimination for people with psychiatric conditions. The Duke of Cambridge has said, “For too long it has been a case of ‘Keep Quiet and Carry On’. As a result, too many people have suffered in silence…and the effects of this can be devastating.”
Actress Glenn Close founded Bring Change 2 Mind (BC2M), a nonprofit organization built to start the conversation about mental health. BC2M develops influental public service announcements and has piloted evidence-based programs at the university and high school levels. Both Close’s sister and nephew live with psychiatric conditions.
Be Vocal is a partnership between singer, songwriter, and mental health advocate Demi Lovato, who is living with bipolar disorder, and leading advocacy organizations that have come together to help individuals and communities advocate for themselves and others.
Every year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) presents its Voice Awards, which honor peer and family leaders and television and film professionals who educate the public about behavioral health.
You might notice that I don’t use the word stigma. This is because stigma refers to a mark of disgrace inherent in a person from a different background and may be used as a justification for discrimination. The terms prejudice or discrimination put the focus on the person who holds and expresses the bias and/or who acts in a discriminatory or prejudicial way. By changing the language used, we redirect attention to the person acting in a disrespectful manner. This is why Vinfen’s 2017 Moving Images Film Festival focused on the theme of progress from prejudice.
By putting our heads together and learning to be vocal and use our voice, we can bring change to mind to lessen prejudice and discrimination for those living with a psychiatric condition.