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The End of Stigma

Brazil's campaign to tackle mental health discrimination

By Antônio Geraldo da Silva

Our society must follow present scientific discoveries and actively fight against stigma and prejudice. However, there is still a lot of misinformation when it comes to mental illness. And there is a lot of prejudice toward people with mental illness. With that in mind, the Brazilian Psychiatric Association has created a campaign called “Sanism Is a Crime.”

It's time to tackle this issue. We should not mock or underestimate others because of their gender, religion, sexual preference or disability, and we should not discriminate against people who suffer from mental illnesses either. They should be seen with the seriousness that they deserve.

Courtesy Antônio Geraldo da Silva
Source: Courtesy Antônio Geraldo da Silva

According to the World Health Organization, over a 12-month period, almost 30 percent of adults in the U.S. will experience a mental disorder. Mood disorders, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and even substance abuse are some of them. When taking into account other disorders such as personality and eating disorders, as well as schizophrenia, the rate increases 15 percent just in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Struggling against mental health disorders is not the only problem that millions of people face every day. There is also a lack of understanding about mental health among family, friends and coworkers. "Sanism Is a Crime" addresses exactly this kind of prejudice, which is faced daily by millions. In Brazil, ABP created the term “psicofobia” to describe this discrimination against people with mental illness. The term is also being adopted in Portugal and Spain. As a psychiatrist, I ask: Why are so many people still prejudiced against psychiatric disorders, usually without any scientific or logical explanation?

We all, politicians included, have to pay more attention to this segment of the population that has virtually no voice in the civil society. It’s time to turn around the famous quote from Albert Einstein: "It is easier to disintegrate an atom than a prejudice."

Prejudice against mental illness should be a crime.

Antônio Geraldo da Silva is the President of the Brazilian Psychiatric Association

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