Stigma against the mentally ill and mental health providers has persisted for decades. Traditional anti-stigma campaigns, while good intentioned, failed to change the harsh realities of widespread discrimination that those with mental illness have had to endure.

Member communication on Presidential Theme on Institutional Stigma

Member communication on Presidential Theme on Institutional Stigma

As President of the Ontario Psychiatric Association, Dr. Gaind spearheaded a shift in how stigma against mental illness is conceptualized.  He showed that unless we expanded the dialogue beyond the traditional targets of education and attitudinal change, and combatted discrimination embedded in policies, the needs of the mentally ill would remain unmet.  His theme for his Presidential year was "Folie Adieux: Moving Beyond Stigmatization of Psychiatry", and through provincial and national presentations, dialogue with health care providers, and public policy engagement he worked to show that tangible policy change needed to occur to overcome historic "institutional stigma".

I recall the shock of a psychiatrist colleague when she first heard me use the word ‘discrimination’ in the context of mental illness stigma. She thought the word was too harsh. She has since told me how eye-opening that word was. From the local university level to national programs, ‘anti-stigma’ efforts are now routinely referred to as ‘anti-stigma and anti-discrimination’ initiatives.
— Dr. Sonu Gaind
National print editorial on institutionalized stigma

National print editorial on institutionalized stigma

Beyond vague generalizations of what needed to change to address stigma and discrimination, Dr. Gaind has been active at identifying specific policies that discriminate against the mentally ill. His efforts have not been restricted to "ivory tower" theories, he has engaged the public to raise awareness of these issues, including through the publication of prominent national newspaper print edition editorials such as the one on the left.