Dr. Heather Stuart Visits Peterborough to Break the Silence around Mental Illness and Addictions

Written by admin, November 15, 2013

November 15, 2013 – Hundreds Take Part In the “Let’s Talk Information Series” about Challenging Stigma in our Community

Hundreds of residents and community service representatives took part in several events over the past two days to hear community health expert Dr. Heather Stuart from Queen’s University speak about mental health stigma and how to develop an anti-stigma strategy for Peterborough.

“We know that stigma affects many layers of health and well-being, including feelings of self-worth, making connections in the community and having equal access to basic human rights such as proper health care, housing, employment and education, which ultimately have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life,” said Deanna VandenBroek, Health Promoter in the Substance Misuse Prevention program at Peterborough Public Health who helped organize the events.  

In 2012, Dr. Heather Stuart became the first professor to become the Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair in the world.  She has been fighting to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness since the late 1990s. During her presentation she explained how stigma is experienced from the perspective of those with mental illness, and guided the participants in identifying, discussing and prioritizing ideas for a local anti-stigma strategy. “We need to change the way people think about mental illness, change the fears and prejudices so those affected will be treated fairly and without stigma,” she said.

The events this week were organized by community partners working toward the Prevention & Reduction Of Mental Illness & Substance Misuse Everywhere (the P.R.O.M.I.S.E group), with a goal to start a local conversation about stigma surrounding mental illness and addictions. It is known that about one in five people – over six and a half million Canadians – experience a mental disorder or substance use problem in their lifetime, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Many do not seek help because they feel ashamed or scared; most people living with a mental disorder say that stigma is worse than the symptoms they feel. 

“Often the negative, preconceived attitudes about problematic substance use prevent individuals from seeking help or talking openly with friends and loved ones about how their drug and/or alcohol use is affecting their lives,” said Kerri Kightley, Manager of the Peterborough Drug Strategy.  “There is a strong sense that drug or alcohol use should be kept secret for fear of judgment or legal implications.  Opening the conversation about stigma related to substance use and mental health creates opportunities for our community to meet people where they are at, providing health care, treatment services and warmth regardless of circumstance.”

More information about stigma surrounding mental illness and addictions can be found at http://ontario.cmha.ca/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/stigma-and-discrimination/


For further information, please contact:
Claire Hanlon, RN
Public Health Nurse
Peterborough Public Health


705-743-1000, ext. 387