The Voice Media Group recently hosted the Voice Achievers Awards Gala 2011 at the Grand Victorian Convention Hall. Over four hundred members of the South Asian community attended the dazzling Awards ceremony that recognized the contributions of eight of the best within the South Asian community of GTA.
Dr. Dilkhush Panjwani was recognized in the Healthcare category for his untiring efforts to fight the stigma and alienation attached to mental illness, by providing support, education and advocacy for South Asians affected by serious mental illnesses. Dr. Panjwani thanked the organizers for the award stating, “It will inspire me to continue my fight against the stigma of mental illness and validate the cause.” He urged the distinguished audience to support the fight against the stigma of mental illness.
Stigma exists in society about mental illness. Amongst South Asian communities, the stigma of mental illness is more complex, because mental health issues are perceived as bringing “shame” for the family. The family is also afraid that the stigma might ruin the prospect of a female patient or her sibling from getting married. “Stigma and discrimination continue to be a reality in the lives of people suffering from
mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, and prove to be one of the greatest barriers to regaining a normal lifestyle and health,” according to Dr. Amresh Shrivastava, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Western Ontario.
Canadian attitudes toward mental illness are a cause for concern, according to the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). “In some ways, mental illness is the final frontier of socially-acceptable discrimination,” stated Dr. Brian Day of CMA. “Doctors, in particular those who work in mental health, have to take a leadership role if attitudes and treatment are going to change”, according to Dr. Patrick White of the Canadian Psychiatric Association. “Mental health is one of the most pressing problems for us to deal with as a country, as a people and as individual Canadians. There is no health without mental health…. Mental illness still has the taint of leprosy,” according to Michael Kirby, Chair, Mental Health Commission of Canada.
One in five people in Ontario will experience a mental illness at some point in his or her lifetime. It affects people of all ages, in all kinds of jobs and at all educational levels. But most people are too embarrassed to admit it. That is because of stigma. Stigma consists of the negative ways in which people living with mental illness are labeled and the ways that they are treated by family, friends and co-workers often causes them more suffering than their illness itself. In a civil society, the fight to eliminate stigma should continue to remain a priority.