Many people who live with mental illness have, at some point, been blamed for their condition. Their symptoms could have been referred to as “a phase” or something they could control “if they tried harder.”
Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, a stigma can prevent people from seeking the help they need. While stigma has reduced in recent years, we still are yet to remove it.
As a community, we need to stand up to the stigma. Here are some ways you can do your bit.
1. Talk openly about mental health
It’s important to open up the conversation as much as possible, to be transparent, and to take steps towards understanding parts of ourselves and our societies that shape our lives, even though they might not be as pretty as we’d like.
Open dialogue about mental health can help everyone heal. Many people don’t know that there are numerous ways to effectively treat mental illness and you can live a normal lifestyle by learning how to properly manage your mental health disorder symptoms.
2. Educate yourself and others
Take every opportunity to educate yourself and others about mental illness, or anything regarding a similar subject. This will help debunk myths false notions.
3. Be conscious of language
Language matters. The way we talk about mental illness and the things we express publicly through media, social media, in our homes and in our workplaces can make a difference.
We've provided some examples below.
Do say: A person is ‘living with’ or ‘has a diagnosis of’ mental illness.
Don't say: "mental patient’, ‘psycho’, ‘mad’.
Why? Certain language sensationalises mental illness and reinforces stigma.
Do say: A person has a ‘diagnosis of’ or ‘is being treated for’ schizophrenia.
Don't say: A person is ‘a schizophrenic’, ‘an anorexic’.
Why: Labelling a person by their mental illness implies that it defines them.
Do say: A person is ‘being treated for’ or ‘someone with’ a mental illness.
Don't say: ‘victim’, ‘suffering from’, or ‘affected with’ a mental illness
Why? Terminology suggests a lack of quality of life for people with mental illness.
4. Be honest about treatment
Fight stigma by telling people that you see a therapist and/or a psychiatrist. Normalising self-care will help people see therapy in a positive light.
5. Don’t harbour self-stigma
If you experience mental illness first hand, it isn’t uncommon to have internalised shame or harmful ideas surrounding mental health. Self-stigmatisation can manifest in self-blame. Changing the way we talk to and think about ourselves can be one of the most difficult mind shifts. But it can start small, like acknowledging to yourself “depression is a real medical condition.”
The team at Sonder is here to listen. You can start a chat or give us a call at any time of day or night - there's always a caring person waiting to help.
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