4 Useful Ways to Help Break the Stigma of Mental Illness

A diverse group of five adults with their arms around one another in a line outdoors.

No matter our personal backgrounds, we all want to belong. The yearning to fit in with society is part of human nature.

For people who cope with undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, however, feeling like they “fit in” can be challenging due to the societal stigma of mental health.

Stigma occurs when an individual or group views someone in a negative way due to a personality trait that is thought to be a societal disadvantage. This can lead to stereotypes and discrimination against people who share these common characteristics.

Mental illness affects nearly one in five people in the United States. However, due to inaccurate or misleading representations about mental illness in the media and other platforms, negative attitudes and beliefs about mental health persist in our society. Because of this stigma, many people living with mental illness often avoid or delay care by a mental health professional due to fear of being treated differently, harming their relationships, or losing their livelihood.

Fortunately, due to advocacy campaigns like Make It OK, Stamp Out Stigma, and many others, the stigma of mental health has reduced over the years. Our team at Rural Psychiatry Associates wants to help keep this progress moving, so everyone feels empowered instead of ashamed about seeking professional mental health treatment.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we’ve provided some helpful tips on how we all can help reduce the stigma of mental health.

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Tips to Reduce Mental Health Stigma

Talk Openly About Mental Illness

Mental illness is incredibly common, yet the topic has been viewed as “taboo” for many generations. In recent years, however, people have chosen to free themselves from the shackles of stigma by talking openly about their experiences with mental illness.

While it may feel uncomfortable at first, sharing your mental health story can encourage others with similar experiences to do the same. These empowering conversations help facilitate connection, acceptance, and the sense of belonging for people who need it most.

Educate Yourself

Stigma surrounding mental health conditions persists largely due to lack of understanding about mental disorders and their symptoms. By using reputable sources to educate yourself and others about different mental illnesses, you can help clarify misconceptions about anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other disorders while cultivating compassion that could save a life.

Remember that Language Matters

As social beings, the words we use to communicate with one another can influence how we think about certain topics, ideas, or issues. This is especially true about mental illness. Being conscious of your language when discussing mental health is a simple, yet important way to fight stigma.

Using person-centered language is a great place to start. For example, saying “person with mental illness” instead of “mentally ill person” helps instill that people are not – and should not be – defined by their illness.

DO SAY:

“Thanks for opening up to me.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Thanks for sharing.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. It must be tough.”

“I’m here for you when you need me.”

“Can I drive you to an appointment?”

“I love you.”

DON’T SAY:

“It could be worse.”

“Just deal with it.”

“Snap out of it.”

“Everyone feels that way sometimes.”

“We’ve all been there.”

“You’ve got to pull yourself together.”

“Maybe try thinking happier thoughts.”

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Encourage Treatment

Stigma prevents many people from seeking professional mental health treatment. However, they may be more likely to schedule an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist if they are encouraged by someone they trust.

Whether you promote treatment directly through a conversation or indirectly by sharing your own experience with mental health treatment on platforms like social media, you can help dispel any shame a struggling person may feel about needing medication, therapy, or another approach that best suits their needs.

At Rural Psychiatry Associates, our providers offer judgement-free psychiatric and therapeutic sessions to help people of all ages tackle their mental health issues so they not only survive, but thrive in their personal and professional lives. To learn about our services or to set up an appointment, please contact us today.