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Volume 2, No. 1 Spring 1997


Anti-Stigma Programs Promote Positive Attitudes


Please note that we use the term "consumer/survivor" because it is currently the most widely accepted terminology. We recognize and respect that others may identify themselves otherwise.

Spring is in the air and so are several anti-stigma campaigns ardently pursuing positive attitudes and getting the message out at both local and national levels.

This spring the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is offering an interactive workshop, Stigma. . . In Our Work, In Our Lives, for local community groups and SAMHSA staff.

Taking a positive approach, The Anti-Stigma Project of On Our Own of Maryland, the state's consumer/survivor organization, is presenting a workshop designed to reduce stigmatizing attitudes, behaviors, and practices within the mental health and substance abuse community. The training is being offered specifically to people who work in the field of mental health in order to sensitize them to subtle, negative attitudes that may influence their outlook. The workshops focus on raising awareness in SAMHSA's own "backyard" where reducing stigma is a priority addressed in the agency's "Strategic Plan."

"Workshop participants have told us that they did not realize how stigmatizing their own actions were."

Anti-Stigma Project Director, Jennifer Brown

SAMHSA Administrator Nelba Chavez in her opening remarks at the Anti-Stigma Workshop emphasized that "Stigma, loneliness, and disgrace probably affect more of SAMHSA's consumers than any other agency. We are on the frontline--that's why this workshop is a critical part of our mission. We recognize and respect that others may identify themselves otherwise. Our job must be to learn to be wise, to have the kind of wisdom that comes from understanding the injustices experienced by those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse, and the kind of wisdom that comes from confronting our own attitudes and actions. Our collective challenge is to reach across our individual differences and breakdown the walls of silence. If we do our job well, we in this room today have the power to create a movement of healing."

"We basically go in to level the playing field," explains anti-stigma project director, Jennifer Brown. "Through interactive exercises like roleplaying and group discussion, we ensure that all points of view are heard and that each viewpoint is given equal merit." Ms. Brown adds, "Many workshop participants have told us that they did not realize how stigmatizing their own actions were until attending the workshop. The process really makes you examine your feelings as well as your actions and that is true of all who participate, not just consumers or providers." For more information on the Anti-Stigma Project contact Jennifer Brown, in Baltimore at 1-800-704-0262.

Stamp Out Stigma

Throughout the country, local organizations are continuously educating the public about stigma. The Stamp Out Stigma Program (SOS), Belmont, Calif., has been speaking to groups since October 1990. All SOS panelists are consumers and volunteers. The group operates on grants from community foundations, fees, and donations. Their speakers' bureau has made over 400 presentations. For more information on the SOS program, contact Carmen Lee, chair at (415)592-2345, 1572 Winding Way, Suite A, Belmont, Calif. 94002.

On the east coast, New York City is launching a comprehensive private/public sector anti-stigma campaign. The New York City Department of Mental Health is working with Lichtenstein Creative Media, Inc. and a coalition of local and national mental health organizations. To learn more about the Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaign for the City of New York, contact Marjorie Searles, New York City Department of Mental Health at (212)219-5526.

"Our collective challenge is to reach across our individual differences and breakdown the walls of silence. If we do our job well, we in this room today have the power to create a movement of healing."

SAMHSA Administrator Nelba Chavez

The National Mental Health Association (NMHA) advertises in their pamphlet, "Stigma Awareness and Understanding of Mental Illness," a stigma hotline to call NMHA to report stigmatizing events, television and radio shows, comics, portrayals, and news reports. That number is 1- 800-969-NMHA or (703)684-7722.

Another group working on reducing stigma is the Rotary Club. The ETS Project (Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness Through Education) focuses on public education and early intervention as part of their mission to offer employment opportunities to people with mental illness and are returning to the work force. Rotary Club has a long-range goal to supply at least three employment opportunities from one local club at a time, and eventually worldwide. For more information, call 1-800-219-4854.

The Stigmabusters

The National Stigma Clearinghouse in New York City, a volunteer organization, receives and circulates examples of stigma from and to a network of stigmabusters. The network of stigmabusters includes people diagnosed with psychiatric conditions, their families, researchers, mental health professionals, educators, legislators and members of the media. Their goal is to change public attitudes by tracking, and, if necessary, protesting stigmatizing images of mental illness in entertainment, news reporting and advertising. The clearinghouse may be reached at (212)2554411.

Both at the national level and the local level the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has launched a five-year, "Campaign to End Discrimination." In the first year of the NAMI campaign, efforts will be to confront discrimination in health care, reimbursement programs, employment practices, education, and housing. For further information on this campaign contact the NAMI Anti-stigma Coordinator Marshall Brown at (703) 524-7600.


Consumer Affairs Bulletin
Volume 2, No. 1 Spring 1997

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