De”myth”ifying Mental Health – Findings from a Community University Research Alliance (CURA)
Critical Social Work
Many myths exist regarding mental illness and those with mental health issues. Under the auspices of a Community-University Research Alliance on Housing and Mental Health, a partnership between academics, community health and social service agencies and representatives of consumer-survivor groups, fourteen consumer-survivor and eight family member focus groups were held throughout Southwestern Ontario. Individual interviews were also conducted with 150 male and 150 female community-based mental health system consumer-survivors living in a variety of housing environments in London, Ontario. The findings dispute beliefs around four myths: that people with mental health problems are a homogenous population, which was highlighted by significant differences between men and women in frequency and length of psychiatric hospitalizations, primary diagnosis, problem severity, psychoactive drug use and sexual abuse, are unemployed because they are uneducated, are violent and dangerous and thus spend extended periods of time incarcerated and are unsupported by their families which then leads to housing problems. Challenging these and other equally erroneous myths is essential in responding to the oppression faced by mental-health consumer-survivors and in developing a national strategy for mental health.