It’s no secret that talking about mental health is hard, but you can help make it easier by learning about stigma and how to avoid it!
While our society has become more accepting and tolerant to people with mental health conditions over the years, there’s still a lot of stigma around the topic of mental health. Stigma involves negative attitudes or discrimination towards a certain characteristic that is considered by some to be undesirable. There is stigma against medical conditions, but the stigma surrounding mental health conditions tends to be more negative.
Some examples of mental health stigma are:
- Movies, TV shows, and other media where the villain is shown to be a character with mental illness
- Using phrases like “he’s crazy” or “she’s insane” to describe a person or their behavior
- Treating mental health conditions as if they can be overcome if they just “try harder” or “snap out of it”
- Believing that people with mental illness are just weak, lazy or other harmful stereotypes
- Halloween costumes that depict people with mental illness as violent or dangerous
So, why is stigma such a big deal? Think about it this way: if someone breaks a bone, do we expect them to just “try harder” or “snap out of it” and hope that the broken bone heals on its own? No! It can help to think about mental health conditions in the same way – most people won’t be able to overcome their mental health challenges by just trying harder and they shouldn’t have to. Stigma can prevent people from reaching out for help at all and can even worsen their mental and emotional well-being. Feelings of shame and self-doubt may lead to avoiding others who could help support them because they don’t want to feel judged and misunderstood. While treatment for mental health challenges are available, people struggling with those challenges may be afraid to seek it out. Help is available and recovery is possible.
Now, here’s how you can help combat stigma:
- Remember that many people experience mental health challenges. You’re not alone.
- Stay connected with others and get support.
- Speak out against stigma. Educate others and debunk myths.
- Pledge to Be StigmaFree: The StigmaFree campaign is NAMI’s effort to end stigma and create hope for those affected by mental illness. Through powerful words and actions, we can shift the social and systemic barriers for those living with mental health conditions.
- Take the StigmaFree Quiz Record your answers to the questions and learn about the results to see if you are affected by stigma.
- To Write Love On Her Arms To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) is an American nonprofit organization that aims to present hope for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and thoughts of suicide, while also investing in treatment and recovery. TWLOHA encourages people to have honest conversations about mental health and seeks to connect people to treatment centers, websites, books, support groups, helplines, and other resources.
- Stamp Out Stigma Stamp Out Stigma is an initiative spearheaded by the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW) to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders. This campaign challenges each of us to transform the dialogue on mental health and addiction from a whisper to a conversation.
- Make It OK Make It OK is a campaign to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses. The organizations listed here have pledged their commitment to change the hearts and minds about the misperceptions of mental illnesses by encouraging open conversations and education on the topic.