3 simple ways to (actually) help end the stigma around mental health


The topic of mental health has been buzzing lately, more people are coming out of hiding and the stigma surrounding mental illnesses is slowly being lifted. It is really awesome to log-on to social media each day and see so many articles and posts in support. However, like most things, I think we still have room for improvement.

 As someone who’s lived through depression and still fights wars with anxiety daily, I see the miseducation of so many surrounding these illnesses. My intention is to not put anyone down for their current efforts. Heck, if you’re even understanding that everyone lives with mental health and that it’s mental illnesses only some people face, then I am totally one of your biggest fans. My intention is solely to help educate on some of the (actual) ways we can all pitch in to make everyday life easier for those living with a mental illness–  like my grandma always said “if you’re going to do something, at least try to do it right”.

Below are 3 super easy ways that will help you play a huge part in eliminating the stigma around mental health:

1. Educate yourself

If you do nothing else, at least educate yourself. I don’t mean sign up for a university psychology course, a Google search and some lived experience articles will suffice if nothing more. There are a lot of awesome resources out there that help people understand what those suffering from a mental illness are dealing with; you just have to look for them.  For example http://www.depressionquest.com/ is an awesome site that takes you through an interactive game to help you truly understand and sympathize with those who are living with depression. Let me know what awesome resources you dig up!

2. Realize that context matters

Nothing gets under my skin more than hearing things like “OMG, I’m having an anxiety attack over here waiting for him to text me back.” Just no! If you haven’t actually had an anxiety attack then there is no reason to be using that term in your daily life other than to educate on the real facts surrounding anxiety or in a conversation of support.

Everyone will face times of stress and anxiety, but being irritated that your boyfriend isn’t texting you back is much different than feeling your entire body become hot and cold simultaneously, like your stomach may come out any end, your brain is going a million miles a minute, you can’t cry and this is now the permanent state you feel you will remain in for the rest of your life if you don’t die first.

It makes it very hard for people actually facing things like anxiety attacks and depression to have their illnesses treated seriously when we use terms improperly in our everyday life. Removing the stigma shouldn’t come at the cost of illnesses being treated seriously.  I want you to shout the words depression and anxiety from the highest hills; I just think it’s important to be in the context of education and understanding!

3. De-stigmatize you

In a recent study by the Canadian Medical Association, only 49 percent of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. Would you?  I can’t count how many times I’ve faced situations when I’ll meet a person, they’ll bring up anxiety and how they support mental illnesses the first time we meet, but in 3 weeks when I have a complete anxiety meltdown, I am then faced with awkward conversations, lack of lunch invitations, and what were constant texts turn into sporadic awkward how-are-you’s.

As the saying goes practice what you preach; just be real and try to understand. If my friend was to say, “Hey, I totally don’t get what you’re going through and I’m weirded out by how you react to things, so can you help me out?”  I would instantly throw them a heck yes and begin to help them understand what mental illness is to me. I’d appreciate the honesty rather than the running scared because they think I’m going to become a crazed psychopath one day or end my life and add their name to my suicide note’s list of goodbyes.

It’s hard to know someone living with a mental illness but despite how many times we might forget to tell you (I’m telling you now), we appreciate every effort you make, above and beyond.  If you’re looking for a little extra help in understanding, check out this great video by Jack.org; they take you through how to support those in your life facing mental illnesses:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHQzpDU55oE

I don’t think it’s too much to ask of you to consider three super simple things that will make a huge difference to a lot of people. You probably read 15 things to do before 30 on BuzzFeed right before this and considered at least five out of 15 of those.

Ending the stigma around mental health is a movement that can only succeed if everyone plays their part in creating an accepting space for all those living with a mental illness. Let’s start the right conversation.

Have you ever faced a time when you felt the direct stigma of mental illnesses? How did you react to that situation? Did you help educate those around you on the truths behind mental illness?  Let me know.  If you’re also making efforts yourself to help end the stigma, let what you’re up to, and if not I hope I’ve inspired you to at least be sure that you, yourself are not the stigma.

❤︎: A

Originally posted on DamageControl7Media, 03/03/2015