A green bench for sharing: Share a bench, a conversation, your story, your support
Belize City, Belize, November 19, 2022 (PAHO) – To reduce stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Mind Health Connect, and the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) joined forces to promote being more open to sharing a conversation and supporting persons with mental health conditions.
In the region of the Americas, 100,000 people die from suicide every year. Additionally, in the region, depression continues to be the leading mental health condition, twice as frequent in women than in men. Furthermore, mental health conditions also increase the risk for other health diseases and contribute to unintentional and intentional injury.
Recovery from mental health conditions is possible. However, stigma and discrimination prevent people from seeking and receiving the help and care they need. This has made the fight against the stigma and discrimination around mental health a critical public health challenge.
“The Mental Health Stigma Reduction Campaign aims to normalize mental health issues to promote openness to talk about it and seek help,” said Alondra Izaguirre, PAHO/WHO National Consultant for Noncommunicable diseases. “Through this campaign, we want to challenge the stigma barrier that exists against people with mental health disorders to change society’s negative perspective about mental health.”
Fear and misconceptions contribute to stigma and discrimination toward people living with mental health conditions. This #DoYourShare to Reduce Stigma Campaign seeks to educate the public including adolescents and healthcare providers about the various forms of stigma and their effects.
The goal of the installation of the green benches is to create a safe space and to be an open invitation to talk about mental health without the fear of stigma and discrimination. The benches can be found in districts throughout the country.
- Corozal District: Central Park
- Orange Walk District: Central Park
- Belize District: Battlefield Park
- Cayo District: Mae Gordon Park in Belmopan
- Stann Creek District: Alejo Beni Park in Dangriga
- Toledo District: Punta Gorda Central Park
“The task of ending stigma towards people who live with mental illnesses is certainly one that each of us can play a role in,” said Christa Courtenay, Mind Health Connect Representative. “In addition to the benches provided by PAHO, Mind Health Connect has secured an additional twelve so far to be placed around the country.”
By working with partners such as Mind Health Connect, PAHO/WHO and the MoHW continue to implement efforts to decrease stigma on mental health conditions, challenge discrimination and negative perceptions, educate the public, and improve the well-being of those living with mental health conditions.
“Too often people are shamed and shunned for their mental illnesses,” commented Nurse Iveth Quintanilla, Mental Health Coordinator of the MoHW. “This shaming can take many forms; from stereotypes to moral judgments like ‘you are weak’ to dismissive labeling like ‘you are crazy.’ Thus, the aim of the Pan American Health Organization in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and Mind Health Connect is to promote a positive attitude towards people with mental disorders and improve the well-being of those living with a mental health disorder through the installation of these benches.”