Mental Health Awareness: 6 Ways to Beat Stigma
May was National Mental Health Month. It is a time to raise awareness and brainstorm ways to fight stigma in the community regarding mental health. All month long, people will do their best to raise awareness in their communities. This post was written to raise awareness not just in the month of May, but all year long. What are some of the things you could do in your community to help end stigma? Please read on….
Talk Openly About Mental Illness
You’d be amazed at how others truly view the mentally ill. Believe it or not, there are still people out there who believe conditions such as depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and even schizophrenia can be “wished” away at will, or if the afflicted person only “tried harder” to live a fuller, happier life. When faced with these people in everyday life, do not turn the other cheek. Simply tell them what you know about living with a mental illness. This goes for not only those afflicted with a condition, but their friends and family members too. Mental illnesses are so common these days. If we are not diagnosed with an illness ourselves, chances are we know or have met someone with a mental illness at some point in time. Empower yourself and others by sharing your (or your loved one’s) experience. Encourage others in your community to get a positive conversation started, then set an example. Sharing informative messages on social media is a great way to start.
Educate People in Your Community
This complements the first example. Positive attitudes about mental health can be achieved if we talk openly about mental illness with those in our communities. For instance, if you are out and about and overhear someone making a stereotypical remark about the mentally ill, kindly educate them.
Be Aware of Negative Language
Words can burn. Especially if they are unfair, rude, judgmental, and the like. When was the last time you heard someone “label” a person who is mentally ill as “crazy”, “weird”, or “not all there”? If you are from any of the states in the U.S., chances are you have. Next time it happens, educate the person. Share a story of someone you know (or yourself if the situation applies) who courageously battled a mental illness; all while being a productive member of society. We all know someone like this, whether they have disclosed their diagnosis or not. Doing this can educate others who still believe those with mental illnesses are “crazy” or “weird”. I bet you anything, they’ll watch what they say in the future!
Remind Others that Mental and Physical Illnesses Are Equal
This is a big one. Believe it or not, there are people out there who still view mental illnesses as “separate” from physical ones. They may feel depression isn’t as serious as diabetes. Some people (I have met them!) simply believe that mental illnesses aren’t “real”, and they need to be corrected. Would you judge someone for having diabetes? Would you tell someone with multiple sclerosis to simply “pray” their disease away or “try harder” to live their best, happiest life? I would hope not.
Contact the Media When Necessary
Many get their ideas and opinions from the media. Sometimes, the media will portray those who live with mental illnesses in a negative light. Many social groups (such as NAMI) have lobbied the media to change the way mental illness is portrayed. If you watch a TV show or read an article that enforces negative stereotypes, simply write to them and voice your opinion. Tell them what they published (or broadcast) was wrong. Give them examples of how to improve future stories or broadcasts. This is a great way to eradicate stigma, as many people are influenced by what they read and hear.
Lastly, if you know someone who battles a mental illness, show them some compassion! Let them know you care and will never judge them for something they can’t control. Call them on the phone. Actually, listen to them as they open up to you about their experiences with mental illness. Tell them you are there for them. Show them how important they are to you. You won’t believe how much it will brighten their day! People who suffer from mental illnesses are some of the strongest people you will ever meet. Many of them sadly suffer alone, and in silence. If you follow these simple guidelines (and share them with others), we’ll be one step closer to eradicating the painful stigma many living with mental health disorders (and their families!) experience on a daily basis.
If you or a loved one are suffering from a mental illness and would like to explore treatment options, please reach out to us here at Core3 Harmony & Wellness. We’d be happy to discuss how we may be able to help.