In recognition of Mental Health month, we here at Sassy Pants are educating ourselves further. We’re intentionally being more thoughtful about mental illness and the effects on individuals and communities, making sure we are purposeful with the language we use and the way we act.
Stigma is an ugly part of our communities that we have the ability to change. Thanks to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, we have so much information at our finger tips on how to better ourselves to eliminate the stigma of mental illness.
According the U.S. Surgeon General, stigma is a public health concern that can lead people to “avoid living, socializing or working with, renting to, or employing” individuals with mental health conditions. Because of this stigma, those affected by mental illness have to deal with some of the following issues:
- Bullying, discrimination, rejection
- Perceived to be irresponsible or lack decision making abilities
- Being seen as “other” or “less than”
- Expected to be dangerous
- Harder time finding a job or safe housing
Reinforcing these stigmas doesn’t help make anyone healthier. In fact, it wastes precious time and challenges recovery.
What can I do about this?
You might be thinking: “I don’t know anyone with a mental illness and I’m not doing anything terribly wrong, so I don’t need to change anything”. Chances are, you know someone that has experienced a mental health issue. The experiences of those around you are often hidden. Without open conversations it is impossible to truly know the mental health of even close friends. Folks all around us are scared to share their stories of mental illness because of this exact stigma. And sure, chances are you’re not actually doing anything terribly wrong. But when everyone starts making some small changes to how they speak and act, we can eradicate the stigma that is keeping people from healing. Here are a few ideas of how to do just that:
- See the person, not just the condition
- Don’t presume you know their experience if you know their condition
- Listen to them (simple, but often overlooked)
- Don’t tell them how to feel or that their feelings aren’t real
- Change the words you use to talk about people with mental health conditions
- Lead with kindness and support if you think someone is struggling
- Share your personal experiences with mental illness
I think the most important piece of helping end the stigma about mental illness is discussing our own struggles with those around us. This month our team will share their experience with mental health.
If you are struggling right now, please reach out to friends, family, or one of the resources below.
- An international, multi-lingual, comprehensive list of mental health crisis support, International Suicide Prevention Directory. (http://suicideprevention.wikia.com/wiki/International_Suicide_Prevention_Directory)
- Support for LGBT Youth, The Trevor Project. (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/)
- Online therapy, Talkspace (https://www.talkspace.com/)
- Call the National Alliance for Mental Illness Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET at: 800-950-NAMI
From the National Alliance on Mental Illness