10 Ways to Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health
How often do you recommend someone with a common cold and cough to visit a general physician?
Almost every time!
Now, ask yourself how often do you recommend someone to visit a mental health care professional when they vent their emotions in front of you?
Not that often!
But why? Why are we comfortable suggesting someone visit a physician and not a psychologist or a counselor?
The two major reasons underlying this pattern (despite the fact that we are in the 20th century now) are:
- Lack of equality. We still don’t talk about our mental health as openly as about our physical health. We don’t treat our brain and body the same.
- The stigma attached to mental health conditions holds us back.
Did you know?
The month of May is marked as the mental health awareness month since 1949. Each year since 1949 we have been trying to make people more aware of mental health and its importance.
This year Calm Sage is contributing its part to this Mental Health Awareness month. We are gifting you all the power and guidance to break the stigmas and start considering mental health as important as physical health.
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candar, more unshamed conversation”
So let us begin…
The Common Types Stigmas of Mental Health:
By and large there are two sources of stigmas viz.,
Reaction of general population towards people with mental illness.
Reaction of people with mental illness towards themselves.
The forms of stigma remain the same however their intent changes.
|Prejudice||Agreement with belief and/or negative emotional reaction
(e.g., anger, fear)
|Agreement with belief, negative emotional reaction
(e.g., low self-esteem, low self-efficacy)
|Stereotype||Negative belief about a group
(e.g., dangerousness, incompetence, character weakness)
|Negative belief about the self
(e.g., character weakness, incompetence)
|Discrimination||Behavior response to prejudice
(e.g., avoidance, withhold employment and housing opportunities, withhold help)
|Behavior response to prejudice
(e.g., fails to pursue work and housing opportunities)
Impact of Mental Health Stigma:
Stigmas definitely lead to discrimination but, that’s not it! Ill effects of stigmatization are far beyond it. This includes:
- Lack of understanding by family, friends, and co-workers.
- Bullying, violence (both verbal and physical), or harassment
- Fewer opportunities at school, workplace, social activities
- Discriminated treatment from society
- Under-estimation of abilities in general and professional life
- Facing avoidance and pity
Not only this, but one suffering from mental health issues is impacted by stigma. In fact, society is a predator of mental health stigmas. This results in stigmatization attitudes. Three of the most common stigmatizing attitudes as found by research (2000) are:
- Fear and Exclusion. It is believed that people with mental health issues should be feared, therefore, need to be kept out of the communities.
- Authoritarianism. Doubting on the capabilities of the person with mental illness. Thus, others make decisions about their life.
- Benevolence. Perceiving persons with mental illness as childlike and need to be cared for.
If you have been stigmatization mental illness, don’t go on a guilt trip! It is never too late to start working on yourself.
Trust me 10 years back from now I would have been at your place as well. But with spending a decade (a major chunk of my life) in the field of Psychology and mental-health I have been able to break the stigmas associated with mental health.
So, am I asking you to study Psychology in order to overcome mental health discrimination? No, (until you really want to) Instead, I am sharing 10 ways to fight the stigma of mental illness and bring the change in the society.
10 Ways to Breaking the Stigmas of Mental Health:
Labels are for clothes not people
With this mindset let us break these stigmas…
1. Bear the Right torch
Hey, did you check which torch are you bearing? The one nurturing stigma or the one demolishing them? If it’s the first torch in your head, my pal it is time to change it. But, if it is the later one that you are carrying Kudos!
To bear the right torch you should start by encouraging equality between physical and mental illness.
2. Don’t Hushh It
Start talking about mental health issues as openly as you talk about physical health. Open about mental health conditions and talk about them with your parents, friends, family, co-workers, and others. Don’t hush the topic and put it at bay when someone is trying to talk about it. Encourage it instead and remember communication is the key to unlock these stigmas.
3. Educate Yourself
Education is an important part of breaking the stigmas. Lack of education is what stigma feeds on! You can educate yourself about mental illnesses and related concepts through learning their common signs and symptoms; struggles associated with them; famous and infamous case studies; and the needs of the individual suffering from it.
**Won’t you consider this if someone was suffering from chronic illness like- RA, cancer, or others? Then, why discriminate on grounds of illness**
4. Educate Others
But, is educating oneself enough? Well, it, of course, is one big step towards breaking the stigma of mental health. And when you have taken this step then why hesitate to take another one? Try to educate others as well. Just openly talk about mental issues, impart what you know, and consume the other’s point of view (only if it is right).
Plus, be kind and gently intervene in a conversation wherein rude remarks are made about mental illness. Take it as a golden opportunity to educate others.
5. Be Honest to Self and Others
If you are facing mental health issues don’t put your signs and emotions associated with it under the carpet. In fact, come out talk about it and be honest with yourself as well as others. Do you think your teacher or boss will ever grant you sick leave without you being honest about it? Then how can you expect others to know what ship are you sailing through without you being hornets about it? Seeking help from a therapist or psychiatrist? Be honest and tell it. Don’t be ashamed of it. Think of it as empowering others who might be hiding behind the curtain of stigma and fears.
6. Embed the Seed of Strength
Your illness doesn’t define you but your strength and courage do. Embed this seed of strength and positivity in your life and you will see the strongest plant growing from it- you. With your roots strong and shoot standing upright.
Don’t harbor self-stigma and remind yourself each day that you are more than your illness and abide by it.
7. Reach Out
Facing trouble? Be it work-related, relationship-oriented, or just a self-thing. Reach out for professional help. It starts with you! If you are going to hesitate and limit yourself to your social support circle then how are you going to inspire others to take help as and when required? Move beyond your comfort zone and seek help by mental health professionals, They will help you re-discover your inner strength and guide you to use it as a shield every time clouds of self-doubts hover over you.
8. Mind Your Language
Have you heard of the phrase- words once said can’t be taken back? Neither can the pain that they have caused. Therefore, it is important to be conscious of our language as well, while aiming to break the mental health stigmas. You can actually fight stigmas by reminding yourself and others about their language and how it matters. Yes using appropriate language can be a step in fighting against the stigmas. Try and be conscious of your language. And trust me, most people will be willing to replace their usage if you could explain why their language is problematic.
9. Join Support Groups
There are various social support groups that work at eradicating stigmas of mental health, at both national and international level. One such group that is actively involved in educating people with mental illness, their family, and friends, thus reducing stigmas, is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI offers both local and internet programs to educate people. You too can join such groups to help yourself and society at large in dealing with mental illness.
10. Speak Out for Yourself and Others
A collective voice will sound like persistence, bravery, and strength. So, don’t hide in the shell of shame, come out and roar like a lion instead, with the idea of empowering others. Express yourself and your opinions pertaining to events, movies, articles, and sitcoms that are framed across mental health. You may write letters and approach media telling them they are stigmatizing mental illness. You may inspire someone and help them gather courage as well. Be the mascot of someone’s life.
I hope from this day onwards you will not hesitate to seek help from mental health professionals. In fact, will encourage others for the same.
Let us pledge together to end the stigma and change the lives, of self and others.
Note: Irrespective of the mode of treatment that you opt for (offline or online therapies) the effectiveness is promised. Just seek for help!!! That’s what counts.
If you have your own story to share please feel free to share it here. It might turn out to be your first step towards breaking the stigma of mental health. Plus, you never know whom you might just end up inspiring.
A take-home message
If you know someone who is going through a mental illness tell that “I am here.” Break the stigma! Together we can achieve it!
More Power to You…