One of the biggest contributors to stigma is the lack of conversations surrounding mental health. When someone asks you, How are you? What do you say? ‘Okay,’ ‘fine,’ ‘good’…but I’d bet that 9x out of 10, that isn’t true. We don’t talk about our FEELINGS, let alone mental health. So what gives?
Today is Time to Talk Day. Although this is mainly celebrated in the UK, everyone needs to start talking about mental health and today is a great opportunity to do so! We all have more in common than we do different and individuals with mental health conditions need to know that it’s okay to not be okay, you’re not alone, and you are loved. Mental illness is not a joke, taboo, or something to fear. One in four individuals will experience a mental health condition during a given year. Look around you; chances are someone you know has a mental illness: a friend, a family member, a peer, a co-worker, an acquaintance… Mental illness knows know gender, race, class, education level, financial status, or ‘type.’ But if it’s so prevalent, why is it ‘swept under the rug,’ so-to-speak? Stigma. Stigma is the negative attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes associated with someone that has a mental illness. Stigma prevents people from getting the help they need and preventing tragedy. Stigma causes shame, shame makes silence, and silence hurts us all.
So let’s start the conversation! It’s TIME TO CHANGE, TIME TO TALK! Look for signs and symptoms of mental health concerns. Listen and provide support and encouragement. Link others to a trustworthy adult for further help, especially when someone is going to hurt themself or someone else. So how do we talk about mental health?
1. Call someone you’ve not spoken to for a while.
2. Go for a walk with someone and see how they’re doing.
3. Make someone a cup of tea or coffee and have a chat.
4. Ask about the resources at your school and help others learn about them.
5. Educate yourself and others to dispel some of the myths surround mental illness.
6. Talk to your friends and family about what they do to take care of themselves physically and mentally.
7. Challenge others when they use stigmatizing language, ie ‘crazy,’ ‘psycho,’ ‘bipolar,’ ‘OCD’ and only use medical terms when talking about someone affected by a mental health condition.
8. Speak up! Speak out! Talk about your own experiences with mental health and don’t be afraid to advocate for others!
9. Recognize the FIVE SIGNS of emotional distress: personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor hygiene, hopelessness.
10. Be patient, understanding, and provide hope when someone shares a challenging situation with you, especially a mental health concern.
In the spirit of talking about it, here’s my recovery story, sponsored by DBSA Young Adult Council:
Don’t give up! People can & do recover! There is hope! Having a mental health condition has NOTHING to do with your potential for success! Start the conversation about mental health today!
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