Mental Health still can be a difficult, controversial and vulnerable topic for people. Social stereotypes, the media and culture are all factors that influence society’s thoughts and opinions on subjects such as these. Even though being open and honest about your feelings may be difficult, here are some ways to help reduce mental health stigma.
Ask more questions
By you initiating the conversation it helps the individual to open up. Since a stigma does exist, they may be hesitant to come to you with the problem. Not due to personal factors, but due to their own knowledge of this stigma. By showing them that you are available to talk to and non-judgmental, this can help the person feel as if you are a safe space for them. By asking questions and continuing the conversation, it shows interest. This allows the individual to recognize you aren’t scared or appalled or think they are “weird” by what they are saying. Friends and family members are more self-conscious about themselves than you think, even with their loved ones/significant others.
Maybe your friends are interested in mental health initiatives, such as a lecture about Depression, Pride Toronto, Walk so Kids Can Talk or Autism Awareness Day. By attending these events with your friends, it shows that you are supportive and want to demonstrate compassion in any way possible. You don’t have to be with friends to attend these events! Even if you want to go out of your own interest, it shows that community that are supported and heard.
Be Mindful of Your Language Use
Although it usually isn’t intentional, many times we use language that promotes the stigma of mental health. Words or phrases such as: “you’re crazy!” , “that’s retarded” , “I’m so depressed that this shirt is sold out” , “I love being neat, I swear I have OCD”. These are phrases commonly used throughout society, however by saying these, they minimize the actual serious of mental illnesses. Even though the intent isn’t harmful, it implies that mental illness isn’t something to be taken seriously, or is something trivial. By avoiding these terms, you are no longer giving the impression that you take mental illness lightly.
This correlates with attending events, but volunteering and working within the mental health community, it demonstrates your openness and empathy for others. It shows that you recognize the privileges that you have been offered in life, and because of these privileges or in spite of them, you want to offer help to those who may not have had a life which presented the same opportunities. Humble is always good.
Try to Not be Judgmental
Nobody knows what someone else is suffering with, so snide comments or remarks which you may think do not offend those around you might. Everyone likes to tease their friends once in a while, but sometimes all it takes are words for another person to harm themselves emotionally or physically. Hearing your friends comment on strangers, may give the impression to your friend that you are not someone they would be able to open up too. For example: making fun of a woman’s weight while your friend beside you is silently suffering with an eating disorder. Everyone experiences snap judgments in their head that they cannot control, however by keeping these thoughts on the inside, you can avoid seriously hurting others.
By: Waverly Pegelo