In the United States, 1 out of every 5 people experience some kind of mental illness—whether it is depression anxiety, OCD, etc. the list is long. With this list comes a very big stigma and discrimination against those who are suffering with a mental illness. Not only are individuals trying to heal themselves and handle their diagnosis they can experience troubles at their jobs and school, the media, with peers, family and friends. This can make it difficult to get and maintain a steady job, affects housing, and even destroys the ability to maintain healthy relationships. So what are some solutions to mental health stigma and what can we do about it?
Learn the Facts
As Sir Francis Bacon once said: “Knowledge itself is power.” There are so many misconceptions and myths when it comes to mental health. Let’s start with a very common assumption that someone with a mental illness is more likely to be violent. That is a myth. In fact, mentalhealth.gov reported: “The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%–5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.” You can find all kinds of myths being debunked on this website to learn more about mental health as well. If your coworker, friend, family member discloses that they have a mental illness, take the time to do your research. Use credible sources and ask serious questions.
Create Awareness and Open Discussions
Mental health is not something someone should be ashamed to talk about in a public environment. Of course there is a time and place for everything; however, make places safe for those affected. Participate in Mental Health Awareness month and all of the other months and weeks regarding them. Create an after school or work program for your peers to discuss issues or stress where they can openly vent to a licensed therapist. One thing that I have personally learned about adolescent mental health is that everyone blames it on hormones and the stress of school. No one likes to talk about their feelings when growing up, but parents and educators dismissing them is even worse. One of the best solutions to mental health stigma is having open honest discussions.
Have Empathy and Compassion
It can be difficult to understand where someone is coming from who suffers from a mental illness; however, there’s no reason to lack empathy or compassion for that person. For someone who suffers from mental illness, they already face a lot on a day-to-day basis. Having a supportive friend who finds compassion and empathy in their life is extremely helpful. If we depend on the media and other people’s opinions on how to handle mental health, we will be forever stuck in a stigma against mental health and illness. Even if you were to take five minutes out of your day to do research on how to help someone with anxiety, it can go a long way. You can be someone else’s advocate and stick up for them when they cannot. These are some of the smaller solutions to mental health sigma, but they go a long way. Let’s band together to end the stigma and save those who need help getting treatment as well as giving them a friend to guide them through a hard time in their life.