A Sneak Peek at MDABC’s New Mental Health Awareness Campaign

for blog
An illustration from MDABC’s new What Helps, What Hurts Campaign

For the past few months, the staff at the MDABC (in partnership with BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions) have been working on a new mental health awareness campaign aimed at young adults. For this very exciting new project, we began by doing research on other successful mental health campaigns and by talking to young people directly by holding a focus group. We wanted to design a campaign that young adults would pay attention to and that would ultimately get them engaged in talking about and being invested in positive mental health. Getting feedback from young adults about what they really wanted was an essential (and illuminating) part of the research process!

Based on all the information and opinions that we gathered, we got creative designing the actual campaign. We decided to go with a campaign that asked the question “Do you know what to say to a friend with low mood or depression?” and we  named the campaign  “What Helps, What Hurts.” We decided to go this route because our research told us that young adults were a lot more comfortable talking about a friend’s mental health than their own. We found that, unfortunately, stigma is still alive and well in our community and that many young adults are not ready to let anyone know that they are experiencing a mental health issue. That discomfort does not necessarily extend to talking about a friend’s mental health, and our research shows that most young people want to help and support their friends but often lack the know-how about what to say, how to talk about it, and what to do when a friend is really in crisis.

The What Helps, What Hurts campaign will reach out to young people in a variety of ways including posters on transit, a website, a hashtag, and a pocket guide which MDABC volunteers will distribute at events and on the streets. Our official campaign launch will be in early October 2016, more details to come!

If you are interested in getting involved in this campaign doing street outreach or writing a personal story for the website, please get in touch with Polly at polly.guetta@mdabc.net 

Polly Guetta

5 amazing illustrators who are changing the conversation about mental health (in no particular order)

gemma correll

  1. Gemma Correll

British cartoonist, writer and illustrator Gemma Correll, who now lives in California created a series of comics as a way to explain and cope with her own struggles with mental health concerns. She states,

‘I suffer from clinical anxiety and depression and I find that the best way to deal with it is to find humour in it.’

She hopes by injecting a little humour into her illustrations, she’ll break down some of the stigma and encourage others to be more open about what they’re going through.


  1. Toby Allen

toby allen

Toby Allen is a UK-based illustrator who created a series of drawings of mental health disorders and conditions depicted as monsters.  The Real Monsters series is a collection of 16 illustrations that deal with everything from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.



  1. Sylvie Reuter

Sylvie Reuter, a German cartoonist used her artistic skills to create a visualsylvie reuter representation of depression. She was able to effectively communicate what depression can feel like without using any words. In an interview about her work, Sophie stated,

“Mental health is still something that is stigmatized and rarely talked about in public. But online it’s different, you can share your thoughts and you can do it anonymously and that way it’s easier for people.”


4. Marissa Betley

After seeing firsthand how mental illness can take a toll, Marissa Betley decided to use art to express how it truly feels to struggle with a mental health disorder.

The artist posted one illustration a day about the impact of mental health issues for 100 days on Instagram.  Melissa called this series Project 1 in 4 because that is how many people will experience a serious mental health concern in their lifetime. Check out her work at  project1in4.com

i was stuck


  1. Robot Hugs

Robot Hugs is a Toronto-based illustrator whose art is concerned with mental health, feminism, and gender politics.  RH sees the accessibility of online comics and art as integral to it’s popularity. RH states,

“There’s a lot of writing out there about mental illness and how to support someone but it can be hard to ask someone to go to the labour of reading a lot of text. Everyone’s got 10 seconds to look at a comic.

robot hugs





MDABC Creates New Outreach Campaign For Young Adults

Anisa Mottahed is MDABC’s lead researcher for phase one of our new campaign

The MDABC is currently working on phase one of a three-phase project to create and implement a mental health awareness campaign which specifically targets young adults ages 18 to 30. Phase one of the project is the research phase and so far, what we have found out is very enlightening.  Evidence shows that the typical onset of a first episode of a mental health issue takes place in the late teens or early adulthood and yet many young people do not reach out for help. If they do reach out for help, it is most often to a peer or friend. While friends can certainly offer support and an attentive ear, more education is needed so that friends can help steer the person in distress to get the kind of help that they need.

On Thursday, June 16th, 2016 , lead project researcher Anisa Mottahed  held a focus group, which involved individuals within the 18-30 age range who were not connected to any mental health services.  Through the focus group, MDABC gathered information to help inform the campaign.  We wanted to know what the young people liked, what they didn’t like, what kind of mental health campaigns stood out to them, and how much time (if any), they would be willing to put in to show their support for this kind of campaign.

A few preliminary observations from the focus group were:

  • the young people preferred mostly visual information as opposed to mostly text
  • Most of the participants were willing to share campaign materials on facebook, instagram, and twitter but they weren’t interested in sharing anything of a personal nature
  • they weren’t impressed by having a celebrity or sports-figure included in the campaign unless that person was sharing an authentic personal story
  • they noted that they are bombarded by promotional materials from so many different companies and agencies, so a campaign has to be simple, direct, and original to stand out. The majority also appreciated the campaign we showed them that used humour to engage people.
  • they said that they would be interested in watching a short video associated with the campaign as long as it was under two minutes
  • a couple of the participants mentioned that they had friends with mental health concerns who had leaned on them and that they had tried to help. They noted that they didn’t really know how to help and that caring for their friend took an emotional toll on them as well…

Once we have concluded the first phase of the project, we will begin to actually develop our own original campaign. Stay tuned for updates!



MDABC Board Member Jon McComb Receives GG Award

In a ceremony that took place at the Chan Centre in Vancouver on March 4,2016, MDABC Board of Directors member Jon McComb was presented with the Governor-General’s Caring Canadian Award.

Created in 1995, the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made a significant, sustained, unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad.

Jon was nominated for the award for his volunteer efforts over many years to increase mental illness awareness and help reduce the stigma associated with mental health problems. Jon McComb has been a talk-show host on CKNW  Radio for more than 30 years  and consistently offers his listeners respectful, smart and passionate opinions.

The MDABC would like to congratulate Jon McComb on his award and wish him continued success in all of  his endeavors.

Visit to Vancouver


MDABC’s Community Comes Together to Create a Mental Health Awareness, Anti-Stigma Video – please view and share!

Part of the MDABC mission is to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health issues by offering information to the public which offers a realistic, and empathetic view of the impact that mental health concerns have on individuals, families, and communities. Like other mental health agencies, the MDABC is seeking to build a society in which people can come forward with their mental health concerns without the fear of being unfairly judged or discriminated against. One way in which we create an atmosphere of acceptance is by creating videos about mental health which are available to the public on our YouTube channel.

We invited friends, members, patients, and clients of the MDABC to share their words for an anti-stigma video which we titled “What People with Mental Health Concerns Want You to Know”. The response that we had was amazing! Many people wrote thoughtful words about their own experiences with the goal of clearing up the misconceptions and misguided beliefs that exist about mental health. Other people contributed by using photography to capture images that reflected the words.

We at the MDABC are pleased to say that this video project is now complete and we hope that you will view it, share it, and send us your comments!

Thanks again to everyone who participated in this anti-stigma project. We look forward to developing more community-based projects so that your voices can be heard!


Warm Regards,

Polly Guetta and the staff of MDABC


4 things you can start doing right now to fight mental health stigma and discrimination

1 in 5

  1. Educate Yourself

Mental health is everybody’s concern and we all need to know how to separate the myths from the facts. There are many resources available to help you become more aware of the realities of mental health including books, websites, videos, and journals. The heretohelp.bc.ca website is a great place to start for accurate information.

  1. Educate Others

Once you have educated yourself and freed yourself from any outdated beliefs about mental health that you may have been carrying around with you, take the opportunity to share your knowledge. You can do this by passing on accurate information and by challenging ideas that present myths and stereotypes. If you see or hear people misrepresenting mental health issues, you can gently change the conversation and invite people to re-examine their assumptions.

  1. Stop Labeling

When we label people, we are saying that one characteristic or illness defines their whole self.  By defining someone in this way, we miss out on learning about who that person really is as unique individual. Instead of painting everyone who has experienced a mental health issstigma jarue with the same brush, take the time to see people in all of their beautiful diversity.  Labels can hurt and dehumanize so it is important that we choose our words carefully when speaking about mental health.

  1. Talk About It

If you have a mental health issue, talk about it and seek help and support -you do not need to go through it alone. Although it can be scary to admit that you are feeling this way, remember that it is not your fault and that many, many of your fellow human beings have been there. Talking about mental health and bringing it out it into the open is essential to reducing the fear of embarrassment and shame that deters so many from seeking help.

If you’d like to participate in the MDABC’s new anti-stigma video project,  please see the article below…




An Invitation to Contribute Your Words to A New MDABC Anti-Stigma Video Project


Part of the MDABC mission is to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health issues by offering information to the public which offers a realistic, and empathetic view of the impact that mental health concerns have on individuals, families, and communities. Like other mental health agencies, the MDABC is seeking to build a society in which people can come forward with their mental health concerns without the fear of being unfairly judged or discriminated against. One way in which we create an atmosphere of acceptance is by creating videos about mental health which are available to the public on our YouTube channel.

We are very excited to invite you to contribute your words to our next video project. This video will be titled “What People Living with Mental Health Concerns Want You to Know”. It is inspired by the video “What people with depression want you to know” which is a very highly-viewed video from Buzzfeed. Just like the Buzzfeed video, we will superimpose the real words of the contributors over photographic images. We will not be posting any names associated with the words.

Is there something that you would like to say to the public about living with a mental health challenge? If you are interested in being a contributor to this video, please send your words to Polly at polly.guetta@mdabc.net. Submissions should be no longer that 20 words in total. Deadline for submissions is January 1st, 2016.

We hope that you will take this opportunity to help us create a video that will dispel the misconceptions about mental health and help our non-profit agency to STOMP THE STIGMA!!!!

Meet Nan Dickie-One of MDABC’s Wonderful Volunteers

nan dickie

How did you come to be a volunteer at the MDABC?

In 1994 I started writing short stories, articles and essays for the MDA newsletter that came out every two months. I continued writing for the newsletter for six years.

In 2010, I became an MDA group facilitator in Salmon Arm. I am continuing with this volunteer work.

What kind of volunteer work have you done at MDABC?

I have been associated with the MDA since the early 90s when I lived in Vancouver. My first involvement was writing 1,000 word stories and articles for the newsletter which was published 6 times a year, and mailed out to members. (Email didn’t yet exist.) When I dropped the envelope containing an article in the box for the first time, I had the horrible feeling of having “exposed” myself. Quickly I knew it was for the greater good and I committed myself to writing stories and articles for each newsletter from then on.

After about five years of writing these articles (which now totaled 30), many people said, “You should make this into a book.” Easy to say, a huge challenge to do! However, I did it. In 2001, my book A Map for the Journey: Living Meaningfully with Recurring Depression was published. It contains over 40 articles and stories relevant to all of us and our supporters. The MDA held a book launch for me, and arranged a radio interview. I have written several articles for the MDA since that time.

I moved to Salmon Arm in 2007. In late 2011, as I was healing from a year-long episode of clinical depression, Garry Hall and I decided to start a depression, bi-polar and anxiety support group in this community. This group has been flourishing since then. Garry retired from being a facilitator about a year ago.

What do you find most rewarding about doing this work?

Writing for the MDA, starting 20 years ago, was a gigantic step for me to take. By writing about my (and our) conditions, I learned so much more about how we live with these disorders when we are ill and when we are well, how much courage we require to navigate our episodes. I received countless insights through writing that inspired me to write more and more. I also recognized how difficult stigma is for us, and how challenging it is for friends and loved ones to support us in a loving and wise manner.

Being a facilitator has been – and continues to be – very rewarding. I have  met over 50 individuals who share our disorders at our bi-weekly meetings. I love inviting brave new participants to the group, and helping them to feel comfortable in this new setting. I am moved by the stories (experiences, challenges, pain and joy) of all the participants, and their resilience in healing.

Our motto is, “We’d rather share with strangers who understand, than with friends who don’t.” We have all become special friends with each other, a special extended “family.”

The greatest reward of being a facilitator is how my life has been deepened and enhanced by the enthusiastic participation of a broad spectrum of courageous individuals.

What kind of programs would you like to see offered in the future?

The MDA provides a wide range of excellent programs and services to people living in the Lower Mainland that are not available to those of us in the interior of BC. I’m unsure of what programs would be valuable administered from afar. We do find the web-site informative and inspiring.

What are three things that you do to feel happy and well?

Each of us can have a large tool kit of things that can help us a great deal to attain and maintain good mental health when we are in remission. Many of these tools are invaluable when we are ill. My tool kit contains many “items” that yours does too: good eating and sleeping habits, support from family, friends and my support group, a good relationship with my doctor and psychiatrist, and so on. In addition to these (and other) things that keep me as mentally healthy as possible, I keep my body fit with road cycling, cross-country skiing and swimming. These activities are also conducive to mental calmness – and that great plus – a rush of endorphins! Spiritual life is very important to me and sustains me critically through my tough episodes and nurtures me when I am well.

Stomping the Stigma: Part 1 in a Series


Thinking about the media and how it feeds mental health stigma

by Polly Guetta

“Several themes describe misconceptions about mental illness and corresponding stigmatizing attitudes. Media analyses of film and print have identified three: people with mental illness are homicidal maniacs who need to be feared; they have childlike perceptions of the world that should be marveled; or they are responsible for their illness because they have weak character.” — Patrick W. Corrigan, “Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness,” World Psychiatry

When I read the above quote, I was struck by its sad accuracy. It is certainly no wonder that people are reluctant to be open about their mental health concerns when these stereotypes continue to be reinforced by the media; nobody wants to be thought of as a potential murderer, a simple naïve child, or a weak-willed loser. As long as people continue to accept these false generalizations about mental health, stigma and mental health discrimination will, unfortunately, live on in our communities.

Although we have taken strides towards better mental health awareness in recent years, there is still a long way to go. The more that we talk about our own concerns and struggles, the more misconceptions will clear up creating room for more realistic ideas to take root. When we see someone in the public eye like Clara Hughes come forward about her own struggles, our grip on all of those negative stereotypes loosens. Wait, she not homeless, she’s not violent, she’s not weak-willed – maybe mental illness isn’t what I thought!

Encouraging people to disclose mental health concerns is one of the ways in which we can fight against stigma but as a society we need to do more. We can’t continue to foster an intolerant, prejudiced community and then expect individuals to take the risks that disclosure brings. The burden of fighting stigma cannot fall solely on the shoulders of those who are directly impacted by mental health issues. This is where the media needs to do better and stop creating programming stuffed with unrealistic portrayals, unfair characterizations, and narrow representations.

According to a report for Time to Change, an anti-stigma mental health campaign in the UK, characters with mental health problems are being depicted as more demonic and crueler than at any time in movie history. The report, Screening Madness, written by psychiatrist and film expert Dr. Peter Byrne reveals that film depictions of people with experience of mental health problems have become more damaging. Dr. Byrne writes “Mental health stereotypes have not changed over a century of cinema. If anything, the comedy is crueler and the deranged psycho killer even more demonic.”  The report also reveals that surveys have found that that the public gets its understanding of mental illness from movies, more than from any other type of media.

As consumers of media products, we have a choice of what to “buy” and what to put back on the shelf. By refusing to buy into the clichéd portrayals of mental health that media producers keep putting out, we can lead the media to start creating content that we do want to see. Consumers are tired of all of these old clichés and more importantly these stereotypes that seem so entrenched in the media are actually hurting people. People are afraid to come forward with their concerns and are therefore significantly compromising their health with sometimes tragic results.

The MDABC and similar agencies are working hard to educate the public and increase awareness of mental health because we see first-hand how stigma harms individuals, families and communities. I hope that you will join us in our fight against stigma and negative stereotyping by looking critically at the messages about mental health that the media is feeding us. If you are watching a show with some friends or family and you see something that just doesn’t sit right, why not point it out and get a conversation going? If you see articles on-line that are perpetuating stereotypes, write a comment that will help people to re-examine their assumptions. And lastly, seek out books and movies, and articles that portray people with mental health realistically and empathetically and share widely!