Refinery29 recently published an article in which three mental health advocates explain why it is so important to speak up. The full article can be found here. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in a given year—that’s 43.8 million people. Mental illness is incredibly prevalent today, yet there is still stigma surrounding it.
Mental Health Stigma
Within the conversation about mental health, there are two types of stigma: social stigma and self stigma. Social stigma is “characterized by prejudicial attitudes and discrimination directed towards individuals with mental health problems.” Self stigma occurs when a person is aware of stereotypes that describe the stigmatized group and agree with them.
Stigma may seem like an abstract concept, but the effects are real and harmful. Social stigma surrounding mental health can lead to individuals being ostracized and called slurs. Self stigma can prevent people from seeking help for their mental health challenges and reduce empowerment.
One of the best ways you can fight stigma in your everyday life is to speak up about mental illness. If you experience mental health challenges, and are comfortable doing so, then talk about it. There is a big chance that someone who is also struggling with mental health challenges will hear you and feel a little less alone. Every time you open up about your mental health, you are reaching out to others who may need support. You are normalizing conversations about mental health.
Speaking up also involves paying attention to what we are saying and how we are saying it. You can help reduce stigma by refusing to use stigmatizing language such as “psycho” and “crazy” when referring to someone else. If you feel comfortable, correct others if you see them using this type of language. This may seem like a small change, but every action helps in reducing stigma.
For more information and tools for mental wellness, check out the Guided Resources tool. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the national suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255). For the Crisis Text Line, please text NAMI to 741-741. For more information and support visit nami.org.