May – Sanism

Sanism is discrimination and prejudice based on mental health, including assumptions about mental illness and neurodivergence. It manifests in various forms such as stigma, discrimination, and exclusion. Sanism highlights the tendency of societies or individuals to disregard individuals’ valuable contributions and experiences based on their mental health status and to focus instead on negative stereotypes and assumptions. This can profoundly impact individuals with mental health challenges, leading to feelings of shame, isolation, and a lack of understanding.  

Sanism: Dr. Jennifer Poole at TEDxRyersonU 

Dr. Jennifer Poole is a disability studies professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, who has also done important work in the field of sanism. In her research, teaching, and advocacy, she challenges sanist assumptions and seeks to promote a more inclusive and equitable society for individuals with mental health challenges. Her work highlights the need to recognize and challenge sanist attitudes and practices in our society, and to promote a more compassionate and supportive approach to mental health.  

“Let us elevate emotion, feeling, and connection with reason and logic. Why not? Anti-sanism is also a connecting thing, so whereas we’ve been taught that there’s us, the rational, and them, the irrational, I say I’ve never met an irrational person who is not also rational or a rational person who is not also irrational. False dichotomies, people. Cross the floor. Change the pronoun. Let’s call us WE. 

Dr. Jennifer Poole   

Let us ask you this: 

  1. What are your typical initial/first thoughts when you meet someone who is experiencing a different mental health situation than you?  Do these first thoughts align with what you believe to be true about all people of different mental health statuses? 
  2. What is your current experience with Sanism?  Have you, or someone you know, ever had a lived experience with Sanism? If yes, what impact did it have on you? 
  3. Reflecting on the video, how does the message impact you?  Your environment/organization? 

Today, it is crucial to acknowledge and celebrate the diverse experiences and contributions of individuals with mental health challenges, and challenge sanist attitudes and practices in our society. By opening our minds and hearts to the value of every individual, regardless of their mental health status, we can promote greater social justice and inclusivity for all. This means breaking down stigma, promoting access to resources and support, and advocating for policies that prioritize mental health and well-being. 

This is a reminder that every moment is an opportunity to continue learning and reflecting and that there is always room for growth in ourselves and in our communities. 

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