The stigma against mental illness can prevent people from seeking out therapy and getting better. If people feel shame for receiving therapy or medication and then reject treatment, they will continue to struggle and their illnesses can get worse. We don’t shame people for getting treatment for other illnesses and it’s simply due to ignorance that we shame people for mental illness. This needs to end. Here is a brilliant list of strategies to end mental health stigma from The National Alliance on Mental Health. They developed the list and sought out examples from followers on their Facebook page.
- Talk openly about mental health. “Mental illness touches so many lives and yet it’s STILL a giant secret. Be brave and share your story.” –Lindsey Watkin Lason
- Educate yourself and others about mental health. “Challenge people respectfully when they are perpetrating stereotypes and misconceptions. Speak up and educate them.” –Yvonne Lucas
- Be conscious of your language. “Saying someone is “retarded” or using (or even mentioning) the “N” word is politically incorrect, but it’s still fine to throw around words like crazy, psycho, lunatic, etc.” –Michele Croston
- Encourage equality in how people perceive physical illness and mental illness. “We should explain mental illness as similar to any other illness. When someone acts differently or “strange” during diabetic shock we don’t blame them for moral failings.” –William Newbill
- Show empathy and compassion for those living with a mental health condition. “Love, we can all use more education, but that will not make people change their opinions. When you love and respect people, love and respect all of them. You have a desire to learn more about who they are and what their life is like.” –Megan Wright Bowman
- Stop the criminalization of those who live with mental illness. “Professionals and families together need to talk to neighborhood groups, law enforcement, hospitals and legal experts to share experiences and knowledge on interacting with mentally ill.” –Valerie E. Johnson
- Push back against the way people who live with mental illness are portrayed in the media: “Push back hard against the media and politicians and pundits that simply deflect real social issues such as gun control to the realm of “psychos” causing mass shootings.” –Michele Croston
- See the person, not the illness: “Talk about your family and friends with mental illnesses any time a conversation invites the opportunity; with an open heart, love, and real information about the real human being that they are; they are not their condition.” –Sheryl Schaffner
- Advocate for mental health reform. “It’s empowering people whenever and wherever you can. It’s also writing legislators. It’s also talking in front of a board of commissioners to advocate for continued mental health funding… It’s doing the right thing and treating others justly.” –Danielle Hoover
My awesome friend Vero Higareda is helping to end this stigma with her new project: Spark Bracelets. Spark Bracelets are handmade bracelets that aim to Spark conversations in order to tackle obstacles and improve the chance of recovery for millions of people around the world. Please consider visiting this website, buying a bracelet, and sharing it to your friends! Spark Bracelets are not only an indication of empowerment, understanding, and support, but they are also a perfect way to educate others. Money from Spark Bracelets goes to funding mental health research as well.
Many of these strategies deal with being open about mental health and showing compassion. Simply being open can certainly reduce a stigma, but mental health can be a difficult subject to raise. The National Alliance on Mental Health also has some great suggestions on how to discuss these issues as well. Check out their article on the subject by clicking here! They cover a variety of things such as how to ask for support and also who and when to tell others. Again, mental health can be a difficult subject to talk about, but just making an effort to be open and listen to others can make a huge difference.
[Featured image from Spark Bracelets website]