Introducing the DCH toolkit targeting
stigma within the system
Those of us who have worked in the Mental Health field for many years have certainly heard about the pervasiveness of stigma that keeps so many from getting help that would enable them to enjoy life so much more.
In June of 2011, a steering committee directed by DCH released a toolkit aimed at the reduction of stigma within the mental health system. Each CMHSP, provider and advocacy agency was encouraged to promote self-examination and identification of beliefs that may create barriers to our overarching goal: recovery! Are there some ways in which we routinely conduct business that unknowingly reinforces notions of stigma?
It soon became clear to us that the tenets of the anti-stigma campaign merge and blend with some of the other philosophies that we’ve been promoting within Muskegon CMH.
‘Gentle Teaching’: Promoting human presence, human participation & interaction, and human reward resulting in the feeling of being a worthwhile member of a family or group.
‘Cultural Diversity and Sensitivity’: Understanding the underlying values and beliefs that drive people—a way to walk in others shoes!
‘Motivational Interviewing’: A collaborative, person-centered form of guiding to elicit and strengthen motivation for change.
‘Trauma-Informed Treatment’: Asking “What HAPPENED to you?” not “What is WRONG with you”?...so as to not re-traumatize people .
‘Recovery’: A personal and unique process by which one learns to develop and live a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life.
‘NAPPI’: Making the world a safer place, one step at a time, by providing superior behavior emergency safety skills training.
All of these and many other promising practices build strongly on staff developing meaningful relationships with those seeking our services in order for us to have a better understanding of values, so we can assure that we promote an atmosphere that is sincerely welcoming and non-judgmental. Until we get this down, we will not see many individuals experience recovery.
DCH Combating Stigma Toolkit (pdf)
Stig * ma / n. - mark, brand; a mark of shame or discredit. Having or conveying a social “brand”.
The stigma associated with mental illness results in untold grief and difficulty for people who have these conditions. Our language is peppered with negative references to mental illness (this drives me nuts; quit acting crazy; etc.). People tell jokes about dementia, hearing voices and other things related to mental illness. The media that surrounds us on television, billboards, newspapers, in the tabloids in check out lanes, on the internet-----everywhere we look-----relates the news of the day. When it involves a violent crime, the mental health status of the perpetrator (rarely the victim) is headline news. There is little doubt as to why the general public associates mental illness with “danger."
Stigma has four elements:
1. Using a label to describe someone (he’s
schizophrenic; she’s crazy; etc.)
2. Stereotyping people who have a condition (everyone
with schizophrenia is violent)
3. Creating a class system: A “good/superior” group (us)
and a “bad/inferior” group (them). The “bad” group
4. Discrimination based on a label (can’t get the job due
to mental illness)