One of the most significant issues facing individuals diagnosed with a mental illness is the stigma that surrounds it. There is a cloud of misunderstanding surrounding mental health that can lead to judgment, bullying, fear, rejection, isolation and ultimately, people not getting the appropriate treatment they really need. As a parent, teacher or teen, what can you do to help eliminate mental health stigma?
1. Be Cautious With Your Words
What we say really has an impact. Therefore, choose the words you use about mental health issues carefully. Even saying things in passing like “that’s crazy,” “she’s a schizo,” or “he’s totally insane” can be hurtful, derogatory and puts individuals living with a mental health condition in a negative light. Additionally, choose language that separates the person from their diagnosis instead of defining them by it. For example, rather than saying “she’s a schizophrenic,” try saying “she has schizophrenia”. Remember that people are not their diagnosis.
2. Don’t Make Assumptions
We should not make assumptions about a person living with a mental health condition, in the same way we shouldn’t make assumptions about a person who isn’t. Employers, for example, should not assume that if a person has depression that they can’t be trusted and shouldn’t be hired. A friend shouldn’t assume that if someone is living with bipolar disorder that they won’t be fun or supportive. Furthermore, rather than assuming what a person needs or how they feel, it is always better to ask them first. Always try to avoid assuming what someone’s struggles are and remember that there is always room for growth and change.
Image Amy Creighton
3. Say Something
If you hear someone making a derogatory comment about someone with a mental health condition or if you notice someone being judged or bullied, say something! At times this can be easier said than done but if we all work together we can help to end mental health stigma.
4. Keep the Conversation Going
Above all else, it’s important to keep ourselves educated and to keep conversations about mental health going. We need to familiarize ourselves with current issues in order to be proactive about finding solutions. Understanding mental health diagnoses also helps alleviate fears and helps us all to realize that there are opportunities for recovery and healthy lives for those living with a mental health condition.