VANCOUVER – Reducing the stigma of mental illness involves breaking down stereotypes and bringing greater awareness to the condition. That’s where the “Stigma Slayers” come in.
The “Stigma Slayers” are a team of mental health professionals and clients from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) who are dedicated to reducing the stigma of mental illness. On Thursday, May 5, they will build on their successes at VCH’s fourth Walk-A-Mile for Mental Health.
“We are all touched by mental illness in some way, and yet the stigma and shame that often surrounds mental health issues persist,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “The Walk-A-Mile for Mental Health is a great way for the community to show support for our friends, family members, co-workers or others who deal with mental health challenges every day and to try to break down those barriers.”
For CKNW Talk Show Host Jon McComb, overcoming the stigma of mental illness is not just a goal, it is achievable. “You can get better, most people do,” he says. “I went through most of my adult life, self-medicating and feeling a great deal of anger. For me, it was important to overcome the self-imposed stigma and shame, come out of the shadows and begin a journey towards mental wellness.”
The theme of Mental Wellness for All was chosen by residents of VCH’s Willow Pavilion, which provides specialized in-depth wellness and recovery-based services for people with serious mental illness.
“Stigma is based on ignorance,” says Dr. Soma Ganesan, Head & Medical Director, Department of Psychiatry, VCH. “Most people living with a mental illness are peaceful members of their community. “
Walk-A-Mile for Mental Health first began at Riverview Hospital in 1990 as part of Mental Health Week, which brought together staff, clients, family members and the community. At its peak, the walk attracted more than 1,500 participants and partners from as far away as Squamish and Chilliwack. When Riverview closed and tertiary services moved to regional health authorities, a number of devoted staff worked hard to keep the walk alive.
Walk-A-Mile will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 5 on the green space next to the Vancouver General Hospital parkade on 12th Avenue. Food trucks will be on hand following the 1.6 km walk around the VGH campus. Entertainment will be provided by the Pennington Hall Band, which is comprised of psychologists from across VCH.
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.4 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
Public Affairs Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health