Mental Health Stigma

Mental health has been a hot topic of discussion not only for the controversy surrounding the politics of mental health disorders in general, but the disagreements over what “normal” mental health should like overall. More young adults and even teenagers are coming out with mental health disorders like depression, ADHD, PTSD, and other issues that leave parents and decision makers at schools lost on what to do. The mental health stigma is still strong, even though the topic has already been labeled as “taboo” for what has felt like forever. It’s time that we break the stigma and keep working on having an open door policy for young adults struggling with mental health. The only way to do that is by being more accepting about mental health issues and making them as normal as another medical issue like the common cold. Some of the best ways to help others feel safe to talk about their experiences is to change the way we communicate about it. Even sharpening up on basic skills can help our interactions become more positive and engaging with those who need support.

Let’s overcome the mental health stigma together.

Making Amends

The mental health stigma has clawed its way into our society for years because of the negative perpetration of disorders through public figures in Hollywood, our government, in the media, in our schools, and even within our homes. Some people were raised to not talk about mental health issues out loud or support those who struggled with dealing with it. Some people tend to rush to conclusions when someone speaks up about their mental health and assume the worst. Others go silent and avoid any conversation in fear of not knowing what to say. No matter where you stand with mental health, taking action to improve your understanding on various disorders and communicating with someone who has one is key. A few important things to remember about poor mental health and talking about it include:

  • Mental health is not a one size fits all. Everyone goes through a different experience and can’t feel better with a treatment plan that someone in their family tried. Depression for someone will not be the same type of depression as someone else, since we all have different relationships, environments, and thought processing every day. Likewise for anxiety or PTSD, anyone will have a traumatic event or stressor that is different from the person next door. We can’t judge each other and expect someone going through poor mental health to show the exact same results or feelings. We also can’t predict what they will go through in the future so it’s important to not make assumptions right off the bat. Hold back your prejudices and try your best to absorb as much as you can about their past before vocalizing an opinion.
  • Don’t gossip about their experiences. Many times people with depression, anxiety, or PTSD disorders don’t want to open up for the fear of word getting around. Sometimes news of them having a disorder leads to negative rumors and a damaged reputation at worst in their mind. Make sure you keep to your word about not telling other friends or nosy family about the person’s experiences. They will eventually find out and root the talk back to you, so avoid putting yourself in that position.
  • Learn about someone’s disorder before making judgements about it. For example, if you a have a friend who you suspect is suffering from depression. Don’t assume that they can just smile and call it a day. Depression is a mentally intensive disorder that changes the way someone’s brain processes emotions and the rest of the world. Do you research on what symptoms of depression are, how the disorder can start in someone their age, and what can be done to help. Also research any tips that you can find about avoiding enabling unhealthy behaviors that can lead to depression over time.
  • Practice your listening skills. This is a skill that will carry you far in life regardless of who you talk to or what you talk about. Learning how to listen well makes you become more likeable, more present, and learn more than you thought you would initially. It also helps the conversation flow more easily and helps the other party feel heard and understood. They realize that you are respecting their opinions, feelings, and can build a sense of trust around your presence. Having all of those qualities can seriously empower your relationships and strengthen ties with those who feel that people don’t care about what they have to say.
  • Make yourself available and easy to approach. If you’re constantly checking your agenda to make a lunch date or give off the vibe that you’re always busy, people won’t want to reach out. They’ll expect you to be booked and not care as much about what they want to share. Instead, make yourself easier to spend time with and encourage someone with a mental disorder to reach out. They will sincerely appreciate your gesture and feel more motivated to share their experiences, make connections, and hopefully get help if they aren’t already. Put yourself in their shoes first and you’ll gain a better understanding of where their head is at.

Overcoming Mental Health Stigma

You can help others overcome mental health stigma by showing up as someone who actively listens, takes time to support their struggles, and provide support without judgement. Rejection and humiliation are the biggest fears for people with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health issues because of the silent symptoms they face. Be more vocal about your encouragement for their health and do your homework about what disorder they’re going through before making any assumptions. We all have something new to learn everyday day so it doesn’t hurt to get educated!

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