A lack of knowledge can be the direct cause of prejudice. The many sensation-focused stories in the media about individuals suffering from mental illness committing dangerous crimes against other persons maintain a one-sided and negative image.
An increasing amount of people today fail to thrive mentally and have received a psychiatric diagnosis. More and more find that they are marked by the many ideas and stories about what it means to suffer from a mental illness. And yet, only very few of these people are dangerous for their surroundings, and often only so due to a combination with drug abuse. Most of them first and foremost suffer themselves due to their illness.
Prejudice does not simply take shape in unbending attitudes and derogative references, but also in silence and doubt. No matter the case, it affects those who are suffering from mental illness and their relatives. It means that many choose to hide their problems and might wait a long time before seeking help because they feel shameful and insecure about the reaction of their surroundings. They fear, for instance, that family and peers will turn their back on them or that they will lose their job..
The effort focused on treatment and support for individuals who suffer mental health problems has changed a lot throughout the years. In particular, the last decade has seen an emphasis on greater availability and less intrusive forms of treatment. The goal is to retain hope of recovery and the prospects of a meaningful live, even when you have experienced very extensive symptoms.
International research about the press coverage of the psychiatric sector indicates an undue emphasis on violence and crime in the articles written about individuals with mental problems. Nothing indicates that this should not be the case in Denmark. Thus, the media deliver a stigmatising portrayal of people with mental illness as dangerous and of the psychiatric sector as something alien.
This brings a great need to convey more knowledge – not just about illness, but about the challenges that come with mental health problems and, in particular, the possibility of recovery; in many cases a full recovery with the ability to lead a normal life. The campaign logo, ONE OF US, is able to explain the change that the national campaign wants to contribute to with just a few words: It is a common cause to make sure that everyone feels included and a part the community.
The national campaign ONE OF US wants to face head-on the prejudice and the stigmatisation that is conveyed and retained through the influence that the media holds over the general attitudes of population towards mental illness. The website www.en-af-os.dk plays an important role in this ambition. Additionally, we will make use of campaign elements inspired by special efforts towards the media in several campaigns from abroad, such as courses and information material for journalists, systematic monitoring of the media (“stigma watch”) or a common code of ethics concerned with respectful coverage of individuals with mental health problems.
Likewise, it will be necessary to start activities that promote the meeting of service users, relatives, staff and other citizens, since meeting face-to-face is known to counter prejudice and increase mutual understanding.