We all have mental health. It’s something that we need to nurture and take care of, just like our physical health! So, in a society full of stigma and misinformation, how exactly should we talk about mental health, in a way that doesn’t emphasize the criticism and fear society has put on it? Here’s some steps on how to normalize conversations around mental health!
From the moment you know you want to, or should, bring up a topic in mental health in a conversation, say it confidently! If you show hesitance, or speak quietly, that emphasizes the idea that it’s taboo. There’s nothing to be ashamed about, regardless of what topic you’re bringing up. Mental health is universal! Don’t be shy.
Educate yourself and others
Make sure you can recognize when yourself or others may be spreading false information in regards to topics in mental health, as this only furthers stigma. Educating yourself can look like reading research articles, looking up topics in mental health you're interested in, posting facts on social media, and much more! Additionally, it’s important to call others out when you know they’re spreading misinformation. Educating yourself allows you to more easily identify stigmatizing language and gently teach others.
It’s been proven that the best way to educate yourself is to spend time with friends or family living with a mental illness. In this way, you are able to see exactly how you can help them and learn from their stories and experiences.
Say this, not that!
A big influence and cause of the stigma towards mental health is the language that surrounds it. Saying a person “suffers” from anxiety is a lot more harmful than saying a person “lives” with anxiety. This is because the word “suffers” implies that the person with anxiety is constantly not strong enough to handle it, that the anxiety defines them and their life. on the other hand, the word “lives” implies that the person is strong enough to coexist and manage their anxiety in a way that allows them to meet the needs of their mental illness while integrating their passions and daily life. Simple word changes such as this can go a long way, and being sure to call out others who you may notice still use stigmatizing wording can aid in the effort to make destigmatizing language more universally known and used! Although it may be annoying at first, It always pays off to be conscious of language!
Encourage equality between physical and mental health.
Reevaluate how yourself or others treat people with cancer, or diabetes, and compare that to how they may treat people with depression or OCD. We need to be wary of the way we perceive and treat people with illness, regardless of whether its physical or mental. You would never want to discredit a person’s journey with their illness, and we should strive to be supportive throughout their journeys. Mental health treatment is also as equal and essential as physical health treatment, and is something we should normalize! Be honest when you may need it, or when you want to learn more about it. It is extremely helpful and can be utilized by everyone, regardless of whether or not someone may have a mental illness!
Prioritize all types of rest
In addition, in America there is an emphasis and glorification of the “grind” in society that contributes to overworking, which can be extremely toiling for those living with a mental illness. Taking a break is so essential in order to get physical rest, but also mental and emotional rest! the glorification of the grind can lead to over exhaustion, sleep deprivation, burn out, and most of all, the worsening of mental illness. be wary to reevaluate the ways you prioritize rest, and how to nourish your mental health as well as your physical health.
If you see yourself needing or wanting to seek out treatment, don’t shy away from it. Taking the step towards it is one step towards normalizing it. Be confident, honest when you need help, and proud that you are taking action to nurture your health.
It’s a long journey for the stigma around mental health to die down. However, the steps listed above are extremely essential in the goal to minimize it. Even baby steps in the right direction help the cause, and always remember to ask when you are unsure and educate yourself before taking action.