In the previous text, we talked about what stigma is, what types of stigmatization are, how it arises and how it affects us. As we have seen, the main reasons for the emergence of stigma are ignorance and fear. That is why today we will deal with how you can help destigmatize mental health!
How to reduce stigma?
As we have already said, knowledge is the most effective tool in the fight against stigma. The more people are informed about the topic of mental health, and aware of the ubiquity of mental difficulties in modern society, the less room there is for prejudice and discrimination. But how to spread knowledge about mental health and fight stigma? In the rest of the text, we will explain how to help fight stigma, regardless of whether you are struggling with mental health problems, or just know someone who is facing it.
What can you do if you are struggling with mental health problems?
Just because we may have mental disorders, does not mean that we are helpless. The sooner we realize that our “first-hand” perspective can help combat stigma, the better!
- The first thing to do is seek professional help if the problem exceeds our ability to deal with it.
- We must not allow the possibility of stigma in us to create shame and lack of faith in ourselves. We all sometimes have difficulties that we think are stronger than us, and that we cannot overcome.
- Being open about the topic and your own experiences can help others seek help as well, if they realize they need it.
- You must not isolate yourself from others, many will be willing to give you support and compassion, but they will not be able to do so if they don’t know that you need help.
- Don’t forget that you are more than your problems, and mental disorders are only one part of you, they do not define or mark you.
- It is useful to talk openly about the type of help we have sought, because as we have already said, when others hear that it is possible to fight psychological problems, they too may be encouraged to seek help.
- It is important to remember that we are never alone in our struggle, and that there are many other people who face similar problems as we do.
What to do if you want to help others?
- People do not choose whether to suffer from psychological difficulties, so instead of stigmatizing them, we should make an effort to support them and offer understanding and compassion.
- We must not downplay other people’s suffering with statements such as “Maybe you’re guilty.”, “Just be happier.”, “There are people who are worse off than you.” and similar. Instead, try to offer help, thank people for confiding in you, and give them support.
- If you are in a position of influence, eg an employer, try to show your employees that they are accepted regardless of possible difficulties. In any case, try to openly provide support to colleagues, friends and family who may be struggling with some difficulties.
- Educate yourself and take every opportunity you can to teach others about mental health. Thanks to the prevalence of social media, almost all of us have a voice that can be heard far and wide. Share positive messages about mental health and try to participate in campaigns that work to promote mental health care.
Advocate for the fight against stigma!
Can the way you talk about mental health reduce stigma?
Of course it can! While we often don’t even notice it, small changes in the way you express yourself can make a big change in how you see mental disorders.
- Try to watch your languange! Do not use labels related to disorders in everyday speech. If you’re telling a story, think about what labels you give to the “characters” in the story. How important is it to mention that someone is struggling with schizophrenia? Is it acceptable to say, “Oh, I’m really depressed.” or “He is a total psycho!”? We need to learn to talk more about the positive aspects of coping with mental difficulties when we talk about that topic, instead of focusing on the negative.
- Just because someone has mental health problems doesn’t mean it’s what completely defines them! A person is not a schizophrenic, depressed or mentally ill person, but they are a person with disabilities or a person with impaired mental health. These differences in speech are small but important! Remember, people are not their diagnosis, each individual is much more than that.
- When talking about this topic, focus on the experiences, not the symptoms and mental state of the person! Mental health is not a black and white category, but a continuum, we all go through different levels of difficulty in life, such as depression and anxiety. What matters is how you experience your current condition, not whether you fall into a strictly defined category.
Mental disorders are something that has always been present in society, but given the pressure of an accelerated daily life, some of them, such as depression and anxiety, are becoming more common. The only way to reduce their negative impact on our lives is to have an open conversation on the subject. We all need to work together to destigmatize mental health and difficulties, because remember, there is no health without mental health!
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Hionides, E. (2020). 7 ways to overcome mental health stigma. Summa Health. https://www.summahealth.org/flourish/entries/2020/08/7-ways-to-overcome-mental-health-stigma.
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