LETTER: Mental health stigma perpetuated by many

As always, the answers lie in the “big picture” and who stands to benefit from an unchallenged stigma

Re: Stigma remains in mental health (News, Aug. 29)

Why is it that major advances in psychiatry and the understanding of mental illness over the past century have hardly made a dent in that intractable stigma?

As always, the answers lie in the “big picture” and who stands to benefit from an unchallenged stigma. In the case of mental illness, there are large vested financial interests by powerful groups in keeping that stigma alive and well.

For all-powerful global pharmaceutical companies, the stigma about mental illness is money in the bank. It is in their best interests to perpetuate the myths and stereotypes; staying discouraged and hopeless keeps people sick and desperate for any relief in a bottle.

There is no incentive for drug companies to dispute the stigma. Every day we are inundated with ads by drug companies showing distraught powerless people battling unsuccessfully with mental illness but we never see the reality – brave good people surviving an uphill battle with strength and courage.

Our governments also have a huge stake in perpetuating the stigma about mental illness. As long as public perceptions about the mentally ill are negative, unsympathetic and derogatory, our political leaders can keep mental health funding dollars at the barest minimum with impunity.

So how do we strike the fatal blow to the stigma about mental illness? It all comes down to educating ourselves and talking openly with our friends, co-workers and families about mental illness – until the shame is gone.

The stigma cannot survive in the light of awareness and against the formidable power of knowledge.

Doreen Marion Gee, Saanich