Many people who live with mental illness have, at some point, been blamed for their condition. Their symptoms could have been referred to as “a phase” or something they could control “if they tried harder.”

Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, a stigma can prevent people from seeking the help they need. While stigma has reduced in recent years, we still are yet to remove it.

As a community, we need to stand up to the stigma. Here are some ways you can do your bit.

1. Talk openly about mental health

It’s important to open up the conversation as much as possible, be transparent, and to take steps towards understanding parts of ourselves and our societies that shape our lives, even though they might not be as pretty as we’d like.

Open dialogue about mental health can help everyone heal. Many people don’t know that there are numerous ways to effectively treat mental illness and you can live a normal lifestyle by learning how to properly manage your mental health disorder symptoms. There are also many people who don't realise that their symptoms are related to their mental health, and instead believe, "it's just how I am". This can stop them from seeking help.

2. Educate yourself and others

Take every opportunity to educate yourself and others about mental health. This means not just believing what you hear from others, or see on social media. It's important to seek valid information from reliable sources. When in doubt, speak to a mental health professional! This will help debunk myths and false notions.

3. Be conscious of language

Language matters. The way we talk about mental illness and the things we express publicly through media, social media, in our homes and in our workplaces can make a difference.

We've provided some examples below.

Don't say: 'mental patient’, 'crazy', ‘psycho’, ‘mad’.

Do say: A person is ‘living with’ or ‘has a diagnosis of’ mental illness.

Why? Certain language sensationalises mental illness and reinforces stigma.

Don't say: A person is ‘a schizophrenic’, ‘an anorexic’.

Do say: A person has a ‘diagnosis of’ or ‘is being treated for’ that condition.

Why? Labelling a person by their mental illness implies that it defines them.

Don't say: ‘victim’, ‘suffering from’, or ‘affected with’ a mental illness

Do say: A person is ‘being treated for’ or ‘someone with’ a mental illness.

Why? This terminology implies lower quality of life for people with mental illness.

4. Be honest about treatment

Fight stigma by telling people that you see a therapist or practitioner, and how it has helped you. Normalising self-care will help people see help-seeking in a positive light.

5. Don’t harbour self-stigma

If you experience mental illness first hand, it isn’t uncommon to have internalised shame or harmful ideas surrounding mental health, manifesting in self-criticism and blame. Changing the way we talk to and think about ourselves can be one of the most difficult mind shifts. But it can start small, like acknowledging to yourself “depression is a real medical condition.”

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Article originally published by: BetterHealth

Image credit: Rémi Walle on Unsplash

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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