Reducing Mental Health Stigma
Updated: Feb 7
Stigma comes from a lack of knowledge or understanding of an issue. Sadly, there is often a stigma surrounding mental health and mental health treatment. People might feel embarrassed or ashamed at the thought of seeking treatment for a mental health concern. Family and friends may not understand what you are going through if you’re battling depression, anxiety, PTSD or any other mental health concerns. Stigmatization can potentially lead to people not seeking needed help and suffering longer and more intensely leading to further problems and potentially more serious concerns.
I think it is important to ask why there is a stigma around mental health conditions and seeking help for those conditions. While considering why there is a stigma, it is also worth considering how we can effectively combat stigma and promote positive change. Hopefully if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, that person will seek help.
Over the course of my career, I have strived to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health whenever I get the opportunity. I have addressed mental health stigma in presentations on suicide prevention and during lectures in college psychology courses I have taught. I will correct others when they make insensitive comments about mental health keeping in mind that they might not be aware that something they said could be taken as insensitive. By doing this, I am able to provide feedback about mental health stigma and what they can do to help reduce it in the future. By providing this education, I hope to do my part in reducing mental health stigma when the opportunities present themselves. This is something that is important to me.
With these things in mind what are some things we can do to combat stigma?
· Be mindful of the language you choose when discussing mental health.
· If possible, address and correct friends or family if they make light of mental health or are insensitive when discussing mental health.
· Remind people that it takes a great deal of strength to seek help and that people who are trying to improve their mental health are strong and valuable.
· Do your best to be supportive, understanding, and encouraging with friends, family, or anyone else (including yourself!).
· Do not make assumptions about people and what they are experiencing.
· Remember that a mental health diagnosis does not define a person anymore than a diagnosis of diabetes or high blood pressure should define someone.
· Don’t buy into the stigma. Remember, just because someone says something does not mean it is accurate or kind.
· Educate yourself and others when possible.
Although there have been some attempts at reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, I think it is fair to say that there is still a lot of work to be done. I encourage you to be kind to others, be kind to yourself, and strive to do what you can to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. Incredible progress is made when many people are kind and supportive of each other!