The Elephant in the Room: “Deflating” Mental Illness and Addictions

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Sault Area Hospital (SAH) was pleased to host a special event entitled, The Elephant in the Room. The goal of the event was to fight stigma about mental illness and addiction by encouraging meaningful conversations that challenge negative stereotypes and discriminatory behaviours.

The elephant in the room is a common expression that describes a very large and important issue that everyone is aware of, but nobody wants to talk about. A life size elephant was inflated in SAH’s lobby over the past week, symbolizing the Stigma of Mental Illness and Addictions. Today there was a ‘deflating ceremony’ to demonstrate that SAH is a safe place to talk.
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elephant3Jane Sippell, Director of Mental Health and Addictions, and a well-known local celebrity, Tim Murphy, spoke about mental health stigma and shared stories. According to Sippell, mental health illness is far more common than we think. “More than 6.7 million Canadians live with a mental health condition. If we include families and caregivers, it means that mental illness affects almost everyone in some way or another,” she explains. And yet, the stigma attached to mental illness is so pervasive that many people don’t want to talk about it. “They are afraid of what people may think or say,” says Sippell. “An incredible 42% of Canadians say that they would not even discuss their mental health with their friends. The sad truth is that nearly 2/3 of people with a diagnosable mental illness, do not seek help and as a result, many people do not get the services or care they need.”

Today’s event was intended to raise awareness. SAH staff was invited to sign the Stigma Fighters pledge to have deliberate and courageous conversations that challenge the negative stereotypes that perpetuate the stigma of mental illness and addictions. “The SAH Stigma Fighters, the organizers of the event, is a group of concerned hospital employees who want to make a difference in the lives of our patients and provide the very best care, while making patients feel safe in their environment,” says Sippell.

For more information about Stigma, visit Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

To find out more about SAH, visit: www.sah.on.ca