In Denmark, the “ONE OF US” national anti-stigma program has emerged as a beacon of hope in the fight against mental health stigma. It involves a deep paradigm shift that goes far beyond traditional approaches and is rooted in people’s lived experiences and courageous stories.
At its core, ONE OF US embodies a simple yet powerful philosophy. It employs trained volunteers, often called “ambassadors,” who have a deep understanding of the complex dynamics of mental health conditions and the pressures of social stigma. Ambassadors bravely share their personal stories with those who may not yet know such experiences.
ONE OF US is transforming health care and making it easier for people with mental health conditions to trust their health care providers by creating a system for sharing stories at different levels of society.
In the wake of the pandemic, which has undermined people’s trust in institutions, including the health system, the next Tallinn Health System Conference will focus on the key issues of trust and transformation and examine the impact this has on health care.
The conference will focus on the growing feeling that health services are not available to people when they need them, and on health and care workers who feel increasingly undervalued by the health system. This is also reflected in the testimonies of the runes below. This is an example of how a lack of trust prevented access to appropriate care.
story of runes
Rune Jorgensen, 49, has lived with mental illness for more than 20 years. For the past five years, he has been an ambassador for ONE OF US, at the recommendation of medical professionals who recognized the awareness of stigma as a social issue.
“She knew me, and she knew that I saw prejudice as a social issue, so she thought, ‘Okay, let’s give it a try,'” he recalls. “By that time, I had learned a lot about myself and how to communicate my thoughts and feelings.”
Rune vividly remembers the moment she was unable to receive the care she so desperately needed because she was unable to express her struggles. But once he joined his program, he was trained to articulate his story and experiences – how he felt, and what it’s like to receive mental health care in Denmark.
The Tallinn conference emphasized the essential link between trust and transformation, and ONE OF US is a testament to this link. Trust, the glue that binds patients, healthcare professionals, and policy makers, is emerging as the basis for impactful change within health systems.
For one of us, trust is not just a factor. It is a linchpin that fosters collaboration within the health system.
Understand the negative effects of stigma
A 2015 study conducted by ONE OF US shows the far-reaching effects of bias. Around nine in 10 people with a mental health condition report experiencing discrimination, and a troubling subgroup of one in three experience discrimination in healthcare settings.
Anja Kare Vedelsby, program manager for ONE OF US at the Danish Health Authority, shares some of the most worrying findings.
“Some people who visited the emergency room after self-harm reported not receiving adequate anesthesia for stitches,” she said, citing appalling conditions within the health service. Emphasized reality.
Such discrimination is not limited to people who are reluctant to seek services. This also has a serious impact on health care providers, leading to a lack of confidence in their ability to properly provide care.
“One of the common misconceptions is that people self-harm to get attention, so medical professionals shouldn’t interact with them. There will be more self-harm to get attention. ,” Anja pointed out, warning that this could lead to an increase in self-harm. -Does harm and perpetuates a harmful cycle.
Social contact as a basis for anti-stigma
ONE OF US promotes social contact to dispel these and other myths.
“Social contact is when people who have experienced a mental health condition share their experiences in a way that doesn’t affirm the audience’s biases,” says Anja. “These prejudices are thus broken down, paving the way for behavioral change.”
“Mental health does not define us,” says Luhn. “They’re just part of us.”
Social contact can take many forms, such as training, awareness activities, or stories that ambassadors like Loon share with different groups, including healthcare workers.
ONE OF US is fully integrated into the government and operates across Denmark’s five administrative regions.
In addition to providing opportunities for social contact and changing prejudicial attitudes and behaviors, ONE OF US provides practical information on what Ambassadors can do to support people with mental health conditions. to share. This is extremely important in medical settings.
“It helps dispel the fear of connection,” said one nurse who has worked with ambassadors for years. “For me, too, it’s reassuring to see patients getting better.”
In essence, the ONE OF US movement in Denmark is more than just an initiative. It is a transformative force that sculpts society’s perceptions, fosters a context in which mental health is a conversation rather than a stigma, and ultimately restores trust as the foundation of an impactful and trustworthy health care system.