Challenging Stigma Cross-Culturally

Posted on October 5, 2011

anti_stigma_eng.jpganti_stigma_eng.jpgThe key people from the Swedish government-funded group Handisam, who are responsible for managing the Swedish anti-stigma campaign Hjärnkoll, came to Fountain House a few weeks ago to share ideas with representatives from the initiative and other anti-stigma efforts.

Actions Speak Louder – that was the theme of the meeting. Attending from Fountain House and also representing BringChange2Mind were Kenn Dudek, Wayne Diana, Karen Pratt, and I. We talked about the national campaign, and we shared some ways in which the Fountain House Advocacy Committee has advocated for changes within our local government agencies. Maggie Monteith of the watsons, the campaign’s creative agency, mentioned opportunities for closer interaction with the media. Sue Fenton, from the Office of the Chairman at St. Luke’s Hospital, joined us to talk about raising awareness about stigma throughout the hospital system and in the greater New York community.  

As Sweden’s biggest anti-stigma program, Hjärnkoll’s mission is to raise awareness, change public attitudes, and end the discrimination people with mental health conditions face. In 2009, The Swedish government initiated their national campaign in conjunction with The Swedish Agency for Disability Policy Coordination (Handisam) and the National Collaboration for Improved Mental Health (NSPH). The government fully funds the project, which will run through 2011.
Hjärnkoll emphasizes the importance of people’s experience; it’s at the heart of everything that they do, nationally and locally. Two hundred local Hjärnkoll ambassadors speak in a variety of settings and relate to the media about their lives and how it’s possible to have a good life, even with a mental health condition. Several famous Swedish people have collaborated with them to speak on behalf of their campaign.
We all agreed on three important points regarding how to further future campaigns.
  • Measuring the impact of the campaign on public attitudes on a regular basis is crucial. Since the launch of the Hjärnkoll campaign, results show that every third person who had once been concerned about people with mental health conditions living in their neighborhood now has a more positive impression.
  • Last but not least, what can we, meaning you and I, do? By breaking the silence on mental health issues, we can foster improved conditions for millions of people who live with mental health conditions. We must dare to talk openly about our own conditions and experiences and be persistent in maintaining open communication with friends and family members – those with and without mental health issues.
Alan Miller
Clerical Unit and Advocacy Committee, Fountain House

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