Lately, I’ve been sharing some of the TED Talks that I’ve found particularly informative and inspiring. In this post, I’m focusing on talks that challenge the stigma related to mental illness.
Sangu Delle: There’s No Shame In Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Sangu Delle speaks about the stigma of being an African man with anxiety. He felt shame when his doctor first suggested that he speak to a mental health professional about his anxiety. Culturally, the expectation was that emotions were brushed aside and problems were just dealt with. Among his own group of friends, when one was diagnosed with a mental illness, other friends snickered and made derogatory remarks. In a study of Nigerians, 34% thought mental illness was due to drug use, 19% thought divine wrath was the cause, and 12% blamed witchcraft. Delle challenges the stigma that ends up ostracizing and demonizing those who experience mental illness.
Thomas Insel: Toward a New Understanding of Mental Illness
Thomas Insel proposes a different way of looking at mental illness. He suggests we should refer to mental disorders as brain disorders, since they involve the most complex organ in the body that at this point we still have very little understanding of. He also frames the scope of the issue, saying that mental illnesses cause more total disability than any other condition. He suggests that differences in the “connectome”, i.e. connection pathways in the brain, might be a way of identifying illness earlier as opposed to waiting to see behavioural changes.
Max Silverman: Talking About Invisible Illness – Mental Illness
This powerful talk speaks to the ways that mental illness is treated differently than mental illness. Thanks to Sue at My Loud Bipolar Whispers for sharing this video.
Michael Botticelli: Addictions Is a Disease. Let’s Treat it Like One.
Michael Botticelli is a former US director of national drug policy under President Obama. He openly shares his own history of alcohol addiction and subsequent recovery with the aim of changing public opinion and public policy. He likens the current opioid epidemic to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. He argues that we can’t arrest our way out of the problem of addiction; instead, we need to view addiction as a chronic medical condition and ensure that people have access to the treatment they need, when they need it. He says that we need to change the way we view people with addictions, and realize that they are more than their disease. This is certainly an important and hopeful message to be putting out to the world.
Ruby Wax: What’s so Funny About Mental Illness?
Ruby Wax is a comedian who has depression. In this passionate, high-energy talk, she uses humour to address common stereotypes and misconceptions about mental illness. She’s very skillful at doing this in a way that educates and doesn’t make light of mental illness. Because it’s very engaging and accessible, I think this talk would be particularly good at getting the anti-stigma message across to people who have limited understanding of what mental illness is.
There’s more on mental illness stigma on the Stop Stigma page.