5 Ways to Help End the Stigma of Mental Illness
Welcome to this day and age where we are trying to end the stigma of mental illness. Everywhere you turn, the hot topic is mental illness. From professional sports to corporations and even down to the schoolyard of young children. While this is great, there’s always going to be individuals who just aren’t going to even meet halfway. And that’s ok. It’s what makes the world go ‘round and drives you to learn even more. And guess what my friend? The more you know, the more you can teach and help spread the word!
Stigma on mental illness has been around probably as long as the earth has been around. Mental illness has never been understood due to the lack of research. In ancient times it was categorized as a religious or personal problem. During the middle ages, the mentally ill were believed to be possessed or in need of religion. Psychiatric patients were often confined to degrading mental institutions. It wasn’t until the mid 1800s that living conditions started to improve, but there was still much more room for improvement. And while we’ve come a long way as of today, there’s still a long way to go.
If you’ve been asking yourself, what can I do to help end the stigma? There’s plenty of ways but let me help get you started with just five…
Spread The Word
Are you yourself suffering from a mental illness? Speak out and don’t be ashamed. If you stand up for yourself, you’re standing up for millions of others who are unable to speak out. Some of you may be worried about telling family or co-workers because you’re afraid they are going to not accept it or tell you that you’re being dramatic. Simply put, that is because these people are uninformed. Guess what? Here’s your opportunity to teach. Remind them that this is an illness, not unlike cancer or diabetes. It’s a brain illness, brain disorder, chemical imbalance of the brain – however you want to state it, that’s what it is.
Be Aware of Language
How many times have you heard or have you said things along the line of… “she’s so OCD”, “what a retard!”, or “that guy is so schizo, he belongs in an insane asylum!”. Yeah. We’ve all heard it and more than likely we are all guilty of saying things along those lines at some point in our lives. Here’s your turning point, refrain from saying these types of things and when you hear others saying it, kindly remind them that these are real illnesses not to be taken lightly. Others may also be around to overhear that and could easily be offended and not say anything from feeling ashamed.
Stop Defining People by Their Illness
Joe is not a schizophrenic; Joe has schizophrenia. Mary is not bipolar; Mary has bipolar. There is a difference. We don’t go around saying that Bob is stomach cancer but Bob has stomach cancer. There isn’t any difference. Remember, mental illness IS an illness not an adjective to describe someone. Joe, Mary, and Bob all have serious illnesses but they are not defined by their illness.
Keep On, Keep On… Educating Yourself
The internet has a vast amount of information out there on mental illness. Your local bookstore or library does as well. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find some very helpful websites and recommended books.
Post! Talk! Inform! By volunteering at places such as your local NAMI, you can share your experiences or even take classes to learn more. Ensure your local law enforcement has professionals trained to deal with a mental health crisis. (NAMI has classes for law enforcement training). Start your own social media page to teach others about mental illness. Visit your local community center to offer a one night class on mental illness education.
And the most important thing to remember is, it’s not really how stigma began, it’s where we go with it going forward, noticing what it is, and when it’s occurring.
NAMI – Take the stigma free pledge!
Make It Ok – Learn what to say.
End The Stigma
CAMH – (Canadian site with great info)
My Modern Met – Complete with badges to post on social media.
Bring Change to Mind
Instagram Hashtag to follow.
I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help
Highly Recommended. Learn how to talk to your mentally ill loved one.
Not Just Me
by Lisa Jakub – former child actor who suffers from depression and anxiety.
A Marine memoir of combat and PTSD.
Don’t Call Me Crazy
Thirty-three actors, athletes, writers, and artists offer essays, lists, comics, and illustrations that explore a wide range of topics on mental illness.
If you are thinking about suicide or self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line, a free text message service available 24/7, at 741-741.
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