Film series shines light on mental health stigma

Zachary McGregor
News Reporter

Humber College partnered with mental health experts to develop a short film series battling long-lasting stigmas associated with mental illness and addiction.

The Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care and the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre, Humber’s cultural preservation and heritage branch, teamed up to create the films that challenge long-standing stigmas.

The series explores the often sad and disturbing history of mental health treatment in Canada.

Wednesday’s series premiere of Keys to Our Past at Lakeshore campus was befitting as the grounds were once home to the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. The launch of the series also coincided with Humber’s annual Mental Health Awareness Week.

The series consists of six 10-minute films discussing topics like the creation of the asylum system, changes in mental health treatments over time and the ongoing stigmatization people suffering from mental illness face.

The creators of Keys to Our Past hope to change negative attitudes towards mental health by teaching people about its history, saying almost everyone knows someone who is suffering from a mental illness, so it’s important not to label them in an offensive way.

“[One in five] Canadians will experience a mental illness or addiction problem at some point in their lifetime,” said Jennifer Bazar, Curator of the Lakeshore Interpretive Grounds and co-creator of the film series.

However, most are forced to suffer in silence because of the long-standing stigmas associated with having a mental health disorder. They are afraid to ask for help out of fear others will judge them on account of their illness or substance use problem.

“We can help lessen the stigma by showing people where the negative ideas about mental illness first came from,” said Gary Bold, a York University psychology student and co-creator of the film series.

The misconceptions associated with mental illness are deeply rooted in history and educating people about the past will hopefully make them think twice before they judge someone, he said.

Changing the labels or terms often associated with people suffering from a mental illness can also lessen the stigmas associated with mental health, Bold said.

“It’s really tough to remove words like crazy, insane and nuts from you day-to-day speech, but they are terms used to stigmatize mentally ill patients,” he said. People are less likely to share their struggles with mental illness out of fear they will be labeled as crazy or insane, Bold said.

“If we can help reduce the usage of these terms, the hope is that people will feel a little more comfortable seeking out the help that they need,” he said.

The goal of Keys to Our Past is to raise awareness about the importance of being socially conscious about other people’s mental health issues.

“The absolute prevalence of mental health issues, especially amongst young people is also important for students to know,” said Rachel Gerow, a York University psychology student and co-creator of the film series.

Students are often quick to judge their peers who suffer from mental health issues and it may impede them from seeking help, she said.

It’s important that we ensure students suffering from mental health issues have the necessary supports they need to come and seek treatment, Gerow said. The first step is ensuring they feel safe enough to come out and tell people about their problems, she said.

In the future, the Keys to Our Past series will hopefully be used as an education tool for both students and faculty on the various stigmas surrounding mental health.

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