People with mental illnesses face both public stigma – negative stereotypes that can lead to discrimination – and institutional stigma, where policies limit their opportunities, including access to treatment and care.
Unlearning misconceptions, fostering understanding at home and in the workplace, and engaging with your community are all important steps toward ending stigma.
1. Talk About It
Mental health problems affect everyone, regardless of age or socioeconomic status. It is important to talk openly and share accurate information about mental illnesses to help remove the stigma.
Stigma can make people with mental health problems feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. It can also prevent them from getting the treatment they need.
One way to reduce the stigma is by talking openly about mental health with family and friends. Another is to participate in community events and initiatives that focus on mental wellness. By sharing personal stories and advocating for change, you can foster an environment where mental health is embraced and understood. Lastly, it is important to recognize that someone’s identity is not defined by their diagnosis.
2. Share Your Story
Mental health is a very personal issue that impacts every individual in their family, workplace and community. Sharing your own story and encouraging others to do the same is one of the most powerful ways you can help.
Public stigma refers to negative or discriminatory attitudes toward people who have a mental illness, and self-stigma is the negative internalized feelings that individuals with a mental health condition have about their own experience. Both are significant barriers to reducing stigma.
The best way to combat these issues is by creating a culture of acceptance and understanding within your home, office or school. Fostering open conversations, promoting education and collaborating with local organizations dedicated to mental wellness are all great ways you can help. You may even find yourself helping someone else along the way!
3. Educate Others
Educating others can help break the stigma and promote the understanding that mental health conditions are legitimate medical illnesses and should be treated just as any other illness. Many people struggle to find the right support and care for their emotional and mental well-being because they are undervalued and misunderstood by society.
Stigma can be public (discrimination or devaluation by others) or systemic (beliefs and attitudes about people with mental illness that affect policies, resulting in reduced access to services). Education can help break the stigma, but it is also important to educate yourself so that you can be an informed and supportive listener when someone talks to you about their experiences. This can be done by reading articles and books about mental health and suicide prevention.
4. Be Compassionate
Being compassionate is an easy way to reduce stigma. It’s a natural human response to seeing suffering. It’s also a powerful leadership skill, especially in organizations. It can help you build a culture of inclusion and create more effective teams.
Stigma results from ignorance and fear, as well as inaccurate or misleading media representations of mental illness. It keeps people from seeking treatment for mental health disorders, and it can cause them to feel shame or hopelessness.
To break the stigma around mental illness, we need to educate ourselves and others about the facts and dispel myths and stereotypes. We also need to encourage help-seeking behaviour, and we need to support individuals who are struggling by providing nonjudgmental emotional and practical assistance. This is where the community, schools, and workplaces come in.
5. Support Others
Mental health issues can affect people of any age, gender, or background. Yet they still carry a stigma associated with them that prevents many from seeking help.
Supporting others is a powerful way to make an impact on breaking the stigma. This can be as simple as offering a nonjudgmental ear or shoulder to lean on or encouraging self-care and seeking treatment. It can also be as complex as promoting acceptance within the workplace or community through policies and practices that prioritize mental health.
The good news is that it doesn’t take a large group of people to make an impact. The impact can start at home, in your circle of friends and family, or by joining local organizations that are focused on mental health advocacy.