What One Thing Can People Do To Reduce Mental Health Stigma?
I recently set out to ask this one question to as many mental health bloggers as I could get my hands on, in an attempt to provide a full and hopefully useful answer to the question.
I quickly came across The Mental Health Writers’ Guild who are ‘a community of bloggers whose blogs include items on mental health’ and after reading some of their wonderfully open, honest and insightful blogs decided to contact them.
While I began this project before the Germanwings crash, the aftermath of the disaster provides a timely reminder than mental health stigma is still a problem that needs addressing.
Here’s what people said:
Every time a person with a mental illness, or the family of that person, keeps the diagnosis secret out of shame, that perpetuates stigma. Tell your story. It helps you, others with mental illness, and the greater society.
If others don’t understand or even avoid you, let that be their problem. You want people in your life who appreciate the authentic you, not the false self.
I feel that creating awareness is one of the top ways to reduce issues of stigmas in society. For myself, I remember the feeling of wanting to avoid people with such “label” in the past until I’ve personally met and actually got myself exposed to them and talk to them.
That was when I start to understand that they are also people but with extra challenges and obstacles in life to overcome, which made me more open and accepting towards them. It even made me want to reach out to help them!
So, how to create awareness? Perhaps holding events and if possible, create “games” that helps simulates the experiences which the mental health patients goes through.
It’s also best, in my opinion, to hold such events in schools, with the consideration that youths are the most easily influenced. Adding the fact that it is the future generation that we should be concerned about with this issue.
Creating videos and using social media is also another way to bring about awareness and in turn, positive change. A good script along with good videography / filming can bring about such awareness and maybe even skyrocket the numbers!
People want to share things that opens up their mind about the world and a good video of such element has proved to be successful in the past. Especially if it has a good cause behind it all.
Look at ALS’s ice bucket challenge and its progress. The milestone it had achieved is definitely something!
A good cause coupled with a challenge to inspire people to do something about it and spread the word, now that is a powerful tool for awareness!
David Long from Double Your Presence
Stigma is created through ignorance. We are ignorant of mental health because we don’t understand it. Ignorance breeds fear. And fear breeds stigma. If you’ve experienced a mental illness, you have a responsibility to your community to talk about it openly and with as little shame as possible.
My journey with Depression would have looked very different if I had known other sufferers. When I was diagnosed, I couldn’t even name a single friend or colleague who had overcome Depression. It was only after I shared my struggle honestly through my blog, that people around me opened up about their own experiences.
If you’ve been lucky enough to never have suffered from a mental condition and you don’t really understand what all the fuss is about, then the same applies: Be Honest. Ask questions.
People are quick to give advice. Do yoga. Drink this tea. Try these herbs. Meditate at sunrise. Eat better. Snap out of it.
I find that nobody ever asks questions. How can we help you? What do you need? Do you want a hug? Would you prefer to be alone?
Being open and honest about mental health is the only way we can secure a loving and stigma free environment for future generations.
Sina Bereada from Depression Darling
I think if we help people realize that labels are there for two reasons, one to help decide what treatment may work and two, to help the caregiver to be reimbursed by insurance.
And then three, labels have no relationship to one’s value as a person, so act naturally to everyone.
Evelyn Maxwell from Here’s To Your Health
Jenna Ronk from DBSA NW Georgia Consumer Network
don’t necessarily believe the diagnosis (or the seriousness of it), and if you can get there, then you will not ‘claim’ to be mentally ill, and the consequence of that would be that there can be no stigma.
make sure you are sure that what you’re being told is in fact true, and my call is ‘say KNOW to drugs’, rather than ‘say no to drugs.’
If the existence of the ‘mental illness’ label is producing difficulty with social or professional stigma, question the diagnosis by becoming more knowledgeable about humanistic issues regarding the human mind.
Ian White from Emotions In Balance
Having a family member who lives with a serious mental illness, or being a person who lives with mental illness, actually empowers us with a knowledgable voice about mental illness.
It is our responsibility to speak about mental illness openly in an effort to help those who will be diagnosed sometime in their lives. Because talking about mental illness openly is a first step toward reducing stigma, which is the first step our society must take to encourage the newly diagnosed to receive treatment.
We need to be honest about the challenges of living with the illness and in supporting a loved one who lives with this chronic illness. We need to express how critical an early diagnosis and treatment can be, and how the strongest are those who seek help, not the weakest.
There is no shame in getting help for an illness, and that includes a brain illness. And a person diagnosed with a brain disorder is not doomed; with proper evidence-based treatment, many lead fulfilling lives.
We need to show and explain that the illness doesn’t make a person violent, only rarely, and only when untreated, which is precisely why we need to inform others about the illness and work toward reducing stigma.
Reducing the stigma around mental illness is the right thing to do for society, and for those who are not yet diagnosed but will experience a brain disorder at some time in their lives.
Mary Widdifield from Behind The Wall
I also opened up the question to twitter:
@psysci_co_uk speak about it casually. “Oh I run regularly because it helps keep my depression at bay.” It takes away the heaviness of it.
— Caley Stroud (@CaleyRedd) April 9, 2015
@psysci_co_uk an age-appropriate mental health education in all levels of schooling to reduce stigma and strengthen mental health.
— Nick (@nickjfava) April 10, 2015
@psysci_co_uk be compassionate towards those who suffer with them.
— Twitch (@_LauraAllen) March 12, 2015
A big thankyou to all involved. If you would like to be included in this post please get in touch.