One in 100 people will suffer symptoms of schizophrenia sometime in their lives. This is a global statistic, true from country to country. Because of the many misunderstandings and misconceptions about schizophrenia, the stigma that surrounds the illness is also global. But it differs from country to country. When the World Psychiatric Association invited us to participate in a global program to fight that stigma and discrimination, we knew it would be an enormous challenge. After working on the program for 10 years, we were proud of its many successes in 20 different countries.
Worldbuilding in action
The logo with the campaign theme “Open the Doors” was translated into 12 languages—and in the country of Greece, it even found its way onto a postage stamp.
We worked closely with the then-President of the World Psychiatric Association and more than 40 world-renowned psychiatrists to put together a program that would help groups in different countries assess the sources of stigma and address them in a systematic way. Two volumes of materials were created with step-by-step guides for conducting targeted communication to suit different target audiences: whether it was the general public in Canada or law enforcement professionals in the United States, whether it was general practitioners in Japan or psychiatrists themselves in Italy. We created a website in six languages and educational materials distributed in more than 20 countries.
When the program was completed, highlights and recommendations which we also helped to coauthor were gathered into a book published by Cambridge University Press. The book has been purchased by psychiatrists and patient advocacy groups alike.
Making an impact
Sadly, the stigma and discrimination associated with schizophrenia still exist. But from the responses we’ve received to the program and the book, we have made progress in helping those living with schizophrenia and their families.