Initiative Campaign

Breaking the Silence

Heather Stuart

A Queen’s professor of community health and epidemiology, and self-described "stigma-buster," Heather Stuart addressed a mixed audience of Queen’s alumni and mental health professionals at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 25, 2013.

We're here to break the silence.

The home of Toronto’s annual film festival might seem an unusual venue for the first annual Bell Lecture on Mental Health and Anti-Stigma, but this was no dry academic exercise. Rather, it was an appeal, a call to action.

[Heather Stuart]

It's the silence that surrounds mental illness and our attitudes towards it that Stuart wants to break. It is the silence that stops us from understanding those suffering from mental illness. It is the silence the stigma surrounding mental illness imposes on its sufferers: a stigma that stops them from seeking help. "Our goal tonight," she told the audience, "is to take mental illness out from under the shroud of secrecy."

It is a goal to which Heather Stuart has dedicated her career. In recognition of her important work, in February 2012, she became the first ever holder of the Heather Stuart, Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Thanks to Bell's generous $1,000,000 donation to the Initiative Campaign, Dr. Stuart can dedicate herself to developing and disseminating best practices for reducing stigma, hire research assistants and reach out through conferences and talks such as this one. Bell's investment in her will help those struggling with the stigma of mental illness to gain greater understanding and acceptance.

"Start talking about mental illness," Stuart tells her audience. "And realize that you can be part of a solution."

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