CMHA recognizes Zero Discrimination Day
On March 1, CMHA Peel Dufferin will join people around the world to celebrate Zero Discrimination Day.
Led by the United Nations, Zero Discrimination Day is an annual campaign, which aims to celebrate diversity and reject discrimination in all its forms. This year’s theme, Make Some Noise, encourages individuals and communities to raise their voice to end discrimination. CMHA recognizes that stigma and discrimination is a reality for many people with a mental illness.
Whereas stigma is a negative stereotype, discrimination is the behaviour that results from this negative stereotype. Often, individuals with a mental illness are faced with multiple, intersecting layers of discrimination as a result of their mental illness and their identity. For example, a woman with a mental illness may experience discrimination due to sexism as well as her illness, and a racialized individual may experience discrimination due to racism in addition to their mental illness. In addition, living with discrimination can have a negative impact on mental health.
Roché’s story below illustrates the impact discrimination can have, and the success that can result when individuals are accommodated and treated with equity and respect.
Roché’s story of discrimination and accommodation…
As a woman of colour who has disabilities, I have experienced various forms of discrimination. One of the experiences that have stuck with me happened when I first started post-secondary school. I had gone to my professor to discuss academic disability accommodations for myself as I live with disabilities that include mental health concerns. I remember the professor sharply telling me “I give all students with a disability 1 extra week for assignments.” I remember feeling very uncomfortable when she said this, because I was the student and she the professor, and she was in a position of power and authority. I did not say anything, but I knew this wasn’t right, I just felt like there was nothing I could do and I was extremely uncomfortable. It had already taken a lot of courage to be vulnerable with her in disclosing that I would need some extra accommodations, and her response made me feel even worse about myself.
After that I told my friend about what had happened, and she urged me to talk to someone as she explained it was a human rights violation and I had every right to report her. I ended up taking my case to the Human Right Department and they explained the accommodation policies to the professor, but I ultimately dropped the course because I did not feel comfortable continuing.
Throughout my school career I experienced numerous discriminatory acts and learned quickly what is acceptable and what isn’t. As a result of my experiences I was very fearful of securing a placement position within a professional work environment. I was scared of judgement, not getting the position, or having a potential employer say they are not able to accommodate my disability. I have also witnessed and heard through friends of countless experiences of discrimination within work environments. However, when I came to the Canadian Mental Health Association they were fantastic. They agreed to my requested accommodations such as mental health days, and I felt confident that I could succeed.
Today I am very passionate about ensuring that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in schools, workplaces and other environments. I believe post-secondary institutions and workplaces need to be more accepting of people of all ethnicities, religions, disabilities and more. They need to have all employees respect and uphold certain standards in order to eliminate any form of discrimination.
We can reduce discrimination by changing or implementing policies that lead to more inclusive environments. Policies need to be clearly outlined and actions need to have clear and enforced consequences.
We also must not homogenize people; we must support and accommodate people in regards to their specific needs as required, and empower them to fulfill their goals. The practice of equity is crucial, as it provides people with the necessary means to help them achieve their goals.
Combating discrimination is very important to me, and it is time we all speak up and come together to eliminate it. Anti-discrimination is vital to generating equality and equity among all people, which is what every person on earth deserves.
Members of the public are encouraged to participate in the campaign by sharing drawings, pictures, gifs, audio and video with the hashtag #zerodiscrimination on social media. The annual campaign has chosen the butterfly as its official symbol, in recognition that achieving zero discrimination is a transformative process.