Here are seven things you can do to reduce prejudice and discrimination
against people with mental health and substance use problems:
1. Know the facts
Educate yourself about substance use and mental health problems—what can bring them on; who is more likely to develop problems; and how to prevent or reduce the severity of problems.
Learn the facts instead of the myths.
2. Be aware of your attitudes and behaviour
We’ve all grown up with prejudices and judgmental thinking, which are passed on by society and reinforced by family, friends and the media.
But we can change the way we think—and see people as unique human beings, not as labels or stereotypes.
3. Choose your words carefully
The way we speak can affect the way other people think and speak.
Use accurate and sensitive words when talking about people with mental health and substance use problems. For example, speak about “a person with schizophrenia” rather than “a schizophrenic.”
4. Educate others
Find opportunities to pass on facts and positive attitudes about people with substance use and mental health problems.
If people or the media present information that is not true, challenge their myths and stereotypes. Let them know how their negative words and incorrect descriptions affect people with substance use and mental health problems, and keep alive the false ideas.
5. Focus on the positive
People with mental health and substance use problems make valuable contributions to society. Their health problems are just one part of who they are.
We’ve all heard the negative stories. Let’s recognize and applaud the positive ones. For example, did you know that Ron Ellis was living with depression when he and the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup?
6. Support people
Treat people who have substance use and mental health problems with dignity and respect. Think about how you’d like others to act toward you if you were in the same situation.
If you have family members, friends or co-workers with substance use or mental health problems, support their choices and encourage their efforts to get well.
7. Include everyone
In Canada, it is against the law for employers and people who provide services to discriminate against people with mental health and substance use problems. Denying people access to things such as jobs, housing and health care, which the rest of us take for granted, violates human rights.
People with mental health and substance use problems have a right to take an equal part in society. Let’s make sure that happens.