Changing the Attitude Around Mental Health
Despite efforts being taken in the workplace, religious institutes, schools, and at home, a wide stigma still exists surrounding mental illness and individuals who suffer from a mental illness. These negative attitudes and stigmas around mental health make it much more difficult for people to start conversations about mental health and seek help.
The Stigma Around Mental Health Adversely Impacts Those Who Are Suffering
A mental health stigma is a discrimination or disapproval associated with people who have mental health conditions. Outright discrimination or even the fear of discrimination prevents people from seeking help for their mental health conditions. People living with mental health issues often feel embarrassment, shame, and/or isolation. They can feel excluded from regular activities with friends and peers and can struggle to maintain relationships with others.
Discrimination towards people with mental health conditions isn’t always as obvious compared to inflicting physical violence or name calling. Some people discriminate in more subtle ways, such as avoiding loved ones with mental illnesses, or treating others differently out of fear of triggering an episode or outburst.
Other examples of discrimination include:
- Being refused work, reduced responsibilities, or even being fired from a job due to mental illness
- Being transported to the hospital by the police during a mental health crisis and having to live with a permanent criminal record
- Unsolicited advice or questions regarding someone’s mental health conditions
- Making jokes about someone’s mental health condition
Any act that could make someone feel bad or ashamed about having a mental illness is discriminatory. The time to take more initiative is long overdue; breaking the stigma and changing our attitudes is the first step to acknowledging mental illness in healthy, proactive ways.
How to Break the Stigma and Change the Negative Attitudes Around Mental Health
Although there are systemic issues that add to the stigma around mental health, we all carry a responsibility as individuals to be the change we want to see in the world. It can be difficult to recognize our own biases and attitudes towards others. In order to make a change, we have to learn how to first acknowledge the problem and change our own attitudes.
1. Acknowledge the stigma that exists around mental health and learn your own biases
Recognizing your own biases and negative attitudes towards others takes meaningful self-reflection. You have to learn to slow down and avoid baseless conclusions about others. Take inventory of your negative thoughts and beliefs towards others. You’ll begin to recognize these thoughts and work towards a positive change. One example of a negative bias you may not even realize is harmful to others could be the passive avoidance of a friend or relative. In your head, you may believe you’re helping by avoiding triggering situations, while consequentially, that friend feels isolated and lonely because they never get invited out anymore.
2. Have conversations about mental health
Stop treating mental health as a taboo topic outside of normal conversations. If you suspect a friend or loved one may be struggling with mental health issues, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. Simply check in with them and see if they are doing okay. Let them know you genuinely want to know how they are doing. Even if you don’t get the chance to speak face to face, a simple text message letting someone know you care can make lasting differences.
Other tips for talking with others about their mental health:
- Allow them to explain their thoughts and feelings without trying to make assumptions about their situations.
- Let others guide the conversation about their own experiences, and don’t pry for information that they don’t feel comfortable sharing.
- Ask open-ended questions like “how does that feel for you?” or “how can I help support you better?”
- Be patient. Not everyone feels comfortable talking about their mental health. Keep checking in and letting the other person know you are there for them. Even if they choose not to express their true feelings, it’s still important to not give up on them.
- Be yourself. Keep being yourself around them and have conversations as normal. Mental illness doesn’t mean individuals are incapable of expressing standard behavior.
- Open up about your own mental health challenges. Let your loved one know when you are having a bad day or need extra support. Not only will it make you feel better, but it will also remind them that it’s okay to talk about their feelings.
- If you hear others talking negatively or spreading misinformation about mental health, don’t be afraid to correct and educate them.
3. Educate yourself about mental health
The fact that you are reading this blog is already a proactive step towards changing your attitudes and educating yourself about mental health. Learning is a lifelong commitment that requires you to be open to accepting new information. Forget what you think you already know about mental health and do your own research to learn what it’s really like for people who live with mental health conditions. The library is a great resource for mental health books or psychological information. The internet can be great too, just make sure to seek reliable sources.
Important reminders about mental health:
- Having good mental health is an important part of maintaining good physical health.
- No one is to blame for mental health conditions, and they should be treated as seriously as any other medical problem.
- People do recover with medical treatment and therapy. There is hope for anyone who suffers from mental health conditions to get better and still live happy and healthy lives.
4. Doing anything is better than doing nothing
In order to change your attitudes around mental health, don’t worry about where to start. Just start doing anything to make a change. Start thinking about mental health more, reading about mental health, talking about mental health, and being more perceptive to the people around you every day. If you notice declining traits in a person’s mental health, say something. Start making it a habit to notice when people around you aren’t okay and learn to speak up if you feel safe doing so.
This stigma around mental health has hurt countless people, and consequently makes it difficult for people to get the help they need. We all owe it to the ones we love to do better and create more helpful attitudes and beliefs around mental health. Nearly 1 in 5 American adults suffer with mental health conditions, meaning someone you care about could very possibly be struggling with a condition of their own. Follow the guidelines above to help end the stigma, become a part of the conversation, and talk more openly about mental health in a positive way.
If you need more resources regarding mental health, or need assistance for yourself or a loved one, contact us at Jackson House for counseling, recommendations, or admissions. Our team of specialists and peer volunteers provide an accommodating environment to express concerns or difficulties dealing with mental health.
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