Work remains in battle against mental illness stigma

Queen’s researcher Heather Stuart continues to make a difference for people with mental illness.

Entering her fifth year as the Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair, Heather Stuart is encouraged by the progress she and her team have made in the emerging field of research. However, she knows her work is far from over.

Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair Heather Stuart continues her fight against stigma.

“This chair highlights a need for expertise in an area that was completely neglected before. The chair has allowed us to build bridges between the academic world, media, programs, practitioners, people with mental illnesses, and their family members,” Dr. Stuart says. “However, this chair is the only one of its kind in the world, so there’s room for additional expertise in this area, which was completely neglected just a few short years ago.”

The campaign to end stigma around mental illness will take centre stage on Wednesday, Jan. 27 during Bell Let’s Talk Day. Dr. Stuart believes public outreach events like this one and the Bell Lecture on Mental Health and Anti-Stigma are critical for advancing the cause.

 “We have made a huge impact and people are definitely talking about this,” says Dr. Stuart, who has been a featured speaker at the Bell lecture in previous years. “The people who participate in these events are grateful we are recognizing the stigma around mental health after it has been ignored for so many years. At the end of the talks, so many people lineup to meet me and the other presenters and talk about their lives. We are validating their experiences in a way.”

In her own research, Dr. Stuart is concentrating on intervention. Her goal is to create a tool kit that’s accessible to everyone across Canada. To achieve this goal, she is focusing on finding community partners and working with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to develop best practices.

“Everyone wants to make a difference, but they need the resources to do a great job. It’s a long term process, but I am looking forward to the day when everyone can work from the same document,” says Dr. Stuart.

Read Dr. Stuart's Dean on Campus guest blog on the School of Medicine website. For more information on Bell Let’s Talk Day visit the website.