July 31, 2017

Ending Mental Health Stigma

Easy Ways You Can Support Those With Mental Health Challenges-Including Yourself

Mental health Stigma

At some point in our lives, we all experience problems with our mental health. Whether it is from stress, depression, anxiety, or another issue. Although mental illness is a common issue, people are still reluctant to reach out and ask for help or talk about it. Often, those struggling with mental health challenges are seen as damaged, less than, or abnormal due to their diagnosis. This is known as a stigma, which is defined as “a mark of disgrace with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”.  The social stigma surrounding mental health is very prevalent in the modern world.

Luckily, there are ways to help fight against the stigma and lend support to those suffering, including yourself.

1.Notice how you talk about mental health, and change accordingly- How we talk about an issue can determine how we think about an issue.  Using phrases like, “I’m so OCD” when describing your neat habits is undermining to those who actually have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Likewise, people are more than their diagnosis. So instead of referring to someone as “a schizophrenic” try saying they are “a person with schizophrenia”. That is if you have to mention their diagnosis at all. And of course, try to avoid saying someone is “crazy” or “psycho” at all.

2. Work to integrate mental health care into primary care settings-Access to mental health care should be easy as access to physical health care. It helps to normalize the experience of mental health challenges as just another health concern when mental health care services are accessible within primary care settings.

3. Start conversations about self-stigma- Often, the people who struggle with mental illness can feel a vast amount of shame and guilt. They can also think that their diagnosis is their fault. If you are struggling with your mental wellness, know that it is not your fault. You didn’t choose your depression, anxiety, or other illness any more than a person with a physical disease chose theirs. If you know someone who is struggling, let them know you are here to lend support. Let them know you don’t view them as any less of a person because of their diagnosis.

4. Let Go of the Health vs Illness Dichotomy- Mental health is a spectrum and everyone falls at a point on it. Mental wellness should be something that everyone works to improve rather than just waiting until they are given a formal diagnosis. We should all work towards normalizing attending to our mental health the way we take care of our physical health. Find the best ways (such as volunteering!) for you to improve your mental health and then share them with others.

Click here to read more about the stigma surrounding mental health.