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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 6/22/2012

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


Open the Doors

Start Date

Brief Description
Open the Doors is an international program that was developed by the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) in 1996. Created to fight the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with schizophrenia, the program helps dispel myths and misunderstandings about the nature, causes, and treatment of the illness. Since the programs inception, WPA has generated much-needed action to eliminate prejudice and discrimination, and has seen real improvements in public attitudes toward those who have or have had schizophrenia and toward their families.

Prejudice and stereotyping toward people with mental illnesses is a worldwide phenomenon. Frequently labeled as unpredictable and dangerous, especially in the media, people with schizophrenia face a particularly heavy burden of stigma related to their illness. Recognizing this prejudice in Germany, WPA distributed a public opinion survey measuring attitudes toward people with schizophrenia in six of that countrys largest cities. When the survey results were analyzed, WPA members became fully aware of just how large a social gap people placed between themselves and people with schizophrenia.

Armed with a new awareness of the problems caused by social distance, as well as a thorough knowledge of the obstacles preventing access to better mental health care and quality of life for people with schizophrenia and their families, WPA initiated a global program, called Open the Doors, to address stigma and discrimination associated with schizophrenia. The program began operations in Canada with the assistance of a small group of concerned individuals, including people with schizophrenia, their relatives, journalists, medical doctors, public officials, researchers, and psychiatrists. After deciding on the principal messages that would drive anti-stigma efforts, the group developed and distributed brochures and radio advertisements throughout the country. The campaign became a successful national symbol and a source of Canadian pride.

Encouraged by the success of Open the Doors in Canada, WPA prompted other countries to share a role in their efforts. Consequently, more than 20 countries now participate in the program, and repeated measurements have shown that the attitudes toward people with schizophrenia have improved.

For further information on Open the Doors, you may access the program Web site at To contact the Open the Doors program, you may access the following Web link,


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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.