Sir, – Today is World Schizophrenia Awareness Day, dedicated to destigmatising and raising awareness of a mental illness that affects over 20 million people worldwide.
While in recent years huge strides have been made in destigmatising schizophrenia and mental health issues, there is still a long road to go.
One barrier is that society is still hesitant to use the phrase “mental illness” when talking about mental health issues. Using euphemisms or avoiding directly addressing mental illness inadvertently perpetuates the stigma surrounding it.
A linguistic shift would help remove the veil of silence, and encourage open dialogue about mental illness, normalising the experience and fostering compassion.
Recent research undertaken by Shine’s See Change Programme tells us that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of people say they would not want to live with someone with a severe and enduring mental illness. Yet the majority (75 per cent) say they don’t know what a severe and enduring mental illness is.
People struggling to identify with the term “severe and enduring mental illness” shows us that more work needs to be done to find new ways of making the language around mental health more accessible.
Using the term “mental illness” will challenge harmful stereotypes and misconceptions. A shift in language will challenge the damaging perception that individuals with mental illness are different, and will instead create parity with the way we discuss and describe physical health and illness. This will help pave the way for a more inclusive society.
Our vision in Shine is of a more compassionate Ireland where those affected by mental illness and stigma are supported and included in all aspects of society. Our national conference in Cork today (May 24th), with the theme “Speak Up – Shine Conversations for Change”, aims to empower individuals and communities in the fight against mental health stigma.
Together, let’s create a future where conversations around mental health are catalysts for positive and transformative change. – Yours, etc,
Maynooth Business Campus,