People who suffer from mental illness face unique obstacles each and every day. To top it all off, many face stigma as well. Some have been gaslighted, called names, been discriminated against, and deeply misunderstood. Stigma not only leads people to feel embarrassed and ashamed, but it often prevents people from seeking professional help.
For people who suffer from mental illness, stigma doesn’t help lighten the burden they already carry. Instead, it makes it worse. It causes people to suffer in silence. With 90% of people who die by suicide reportedly showing symptoms of mental illness, stigma can kill if it stops people from asking for help.
Although the stigma around mental health has slowly been decreasing over the last several years, we, as a community, need to pick up the pace. Things aren’t changing fast enough. Stigma is still far too widespread. Here are 6 things you can do to help fight the stigma that surrounds mental health.
1. Educate yourself and others.
Before you can fight the stigma, you must get educated first. Learn about stigmatizing language, the ways mental health affects one’s quality of life, and statistics regarding mental illness. Then, become well versed in ways mental health can be treated. Start implementing some of these healthy habits in your own life. Share what you have learned with your friends and family to start spreading awareness around mental health. The more you speak up, the more lives you can change.
2. Change the way you speak and act.
Language is a huge driver of stigma. Referring to people with mental illness as “crazy”, “psychotic”, “irrational”, “weak”, or “overdramatic” are all negative remarks. This type of language can create a social and emotional distance between those who are suffering and those who are not. It’s de-humanizing and can make people feel shame and guilt. Instead, try showing compassion for people who are suffering. Try to understand where they are coming from and remember that they are sick and may be in need of help. Words are powerful. It’s critical to use them kindly.
3. Normalize the conversation around mental health.
Some people become uncomfortable when talking about mental health. After all, it’s a touchy subject that is often swept under the rug. However, the issue is so far-reaching that it is time to normalize the conversation around mental health. Take every opportunity you can to casually talk about mental health with your friends and family. Discuss how prevalent the issue is and share practical tips and tools you use to take care of your own mental health. Share your experiences with others, talk openly about your feelings, and let people know that it is okay to speak to a counselor if they are suffering. By showing people that it’s okay to talk about mental health, you can be an example for others.
4. Take steps to care for your own mental health. Encourage others to do the same.
Doing little things each day to care for your mental health is crucial. Take time to take a walk, meditate, or journal each day. If you want to go the extra mile, go see a therapist and see what it’s like to be a patient. Get your own mental health evaluated. After all, when we break a bone, nobody hesitates to head to the emergency room. When we have a fever, nobody is ashamed to go to the doctor. Mental health care should be viewed in the same way – it’s okay to see a therapist if you are depressed. It’s okay to seek help if you have anxiety. Then, encourage your friends and family to do the same. Let them know that there is no shame in practicing self-care.
5. Get involved in your community.
There are many organizations and groups nationwide that take action to fight the stigma of mental illness. Do a little research and see how you can get involved with a group that resonates with you. Whether you give your time, volunteer, donate money, or help in any other way, getting involved in the community will not only feel great, but you will join an army of people who are trying to make the world of mental health care a better place.
6. Become an advocate.
Stigma thrives in dark corners of the world that people fail to bring light into. By sharing your story and experience, whether it be with your own mental illness or in your experience helping others, you can begin to shed light on the darkness. Speaking up illuminates those touchy subjects that people don’t want to share about. Sharing your experiences can speak to the soul of somebody who is struggling and help inspire that person to reach out for help. Become the source of strength and hope that somebody else may need.
Shattering the stigma that surrounds mental health takes time – it won’t happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and, most importantly, repetition. Keep sharing your story and keep advocating for others. You never know who may hear your voice and become inspired by you. By taking these 6 steps, you can begin to be the change that your community needs.
Photo is from pexels
Guest Author Bio
Hailey is a passionate writer and a dog-enthusiast. In her free time, she enjoys relaxing at the beach and taking nature walks with her dog. She is diagnosed with depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and is in recovery from addiction. She uses her experience to advocate for better dual diagnosis treatment of co-occurring disorders with Carolina Center for Recovery.