According to the Collins Dictionary, if something has a stigma attached to it then people believe it is something to be ashamed of. Mental illness is something that has been stigmatised for years, and despite the increase in mental health awareness, there is still so much stigma today. It’s not something that’s going to go away overnight, nor is it something that is easily solved, but it is something we can all work on.
Here are 6 ways we can work on reducing the stigma…
I think education is the most important thing. Making assumptions, being ignorant or simply being misinformed all result in more stigma. You might not want to admit it, but the majority of us have grown up with prejudiced and judgemental thoughts. Education is 100% the key to changing that.
In the 21st century, there is so much information available to us at the click of a button. Take advantage of that and educate yourself. Take the time to learn about different mental illnesses and know that education is an ongoing process. There will always be more to learn!
Consider Your Language
Language matters. Let’s make a deal, shall we? No more using crazy/psycho/mental to casually describe someone or something. While it may just seem like a harmless word to you, using these words in the wrong context will continue to feed into a false narrative and create more stigma.
If you catch yourself saying something inappropriate, correct yourself. If you notice a friend using a word they shouldn’t, politely correct them. There’s no harm in letting them know, chances are it’s something they hadn’t even considered!
Share Your Story
Don’t get me wrong, sharing your own mental health story is scary as hell, and it’s definitely a work in progress for me too. However, the more we talk about mental health the better. Stigma has resulted in mental health being a sort of taboo subject, and we need to change that.
Having a mental illness is much more common than you may expect, and the more we share our own stories the more we will normalise it. Having a mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, nor is seeking help, taking medication or going to therapy.
You don’t need to share every single tough time you’ve been through, especially if you don’t feel ready. However, even doing something as simple as letting your Instagram followers know that today is a bad mental health day can make a big difference. I know from personal experience that seeing others speaking openly and honestly online makes me feel so much less alone. It also has given me the confidence to share my story too.
Talk to your friends. Talk to your family. Ask them how they’re doing. Ask them how they’re really doing. Let your loved ones know that mental health is always something that they can discuss with you. Creating open discussion, educating each other and supporting each other will all help to reduce the stigma.
Understand the Importance of Mental Health
If you don’t suffer with a mental illness yourself then you might not realise the impact that it has on someone’s everyday life. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but our society does not treat it that way.
If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t be scared to ask for help, would you? If you were recovering from surgery, your employer would understand that you need time off. Employers and educators should be treating mental health with the same respect, but unfortunately that is not the case in all situations. In order for us to reduce the stigma, mental health needs to be taken seriously.
Don’t Believe Everything You See
The media plays a huge role in how society perceives mental illness. It’s important to remember that the information being shared is not accurate 100% of the time. The media is always aiming for clickbait titles and outrageous stories to bring in views, so we should take everything they say with a pinch of salt.
Newspapers, magazines, TV shows and movies are all guilty of showing false stereotypes and negative portrayals of mental illness. We should be holding them accountable. See an article that doesn’t sit right with you? Email them. Educate them. It’s frustrating that we still have to do this in 2019, but it is so so important.
Is there anything else you think we could do to help reduce the stigma? I would love to know!
Fancy chatting more about mental health? Well you’re in luck! I’m starting a newsletter called The Monthly Mental Breakdown. I’ll be sending an email out once a month about all things mental health. If you’d like to sign up then you can do so here.
The pictures used in this post are royalty free stock images. They were not taken by me, nor do I claim to own them.