Understanding Mental Health Stigma

Mental health stigma is a touchy subject for the media, politics, and even workplaces around the country. Imagine those with mental health disorders who are living behind closed doors and don’t know where to turn to for help. More young adults and even teenagers are struggling with mental health disorders like depression, ADHD, PTSD, and other issues that destroy their energy, happiness, and motivation on a daily basis. The increased pressure of doing well with our relationships, careers, and even on our social media profiles leave friends, parents and decision makers at schools lost on what to do. The mental health stigma is still strong and it’s time that we break the barrier to keep working on having an open door policy for young adults who are struggling. Everyone deserves to be heard and find a place to safely share their perspectives.  Some of the best ways to help others feel safe to talk about their mental health experiences is to change the way we communicate about it.  Our body language, listening skills, and daily behaviors can make a huge impact on someone in our life who fears judgement for sharing. Sharpening our saw on communication and relationship-building can help our interactions become more positive and engaging with those who need support around us.

It can be difficult as a young adult battling mental illness.

Help Someone Struggling

There’s no point to stick around if you aren’t about helping others. In fact, we’re all here for a purpose and it doesn’t hurt to lend a hand to someone in our life who is struggling with negative wellbeing and the mental health stigma overall. The stigma has made things much tougher for people to speak out about their troubles unless they are truly in a position to not fear backlash, rejection, and judgement from friends, families, or complete strangers on social media.  A few important  things to remember about breaking the mental health stigma include:

  • Mental brings a different experience to everyone. Just like stress, we all react in various ways in regards to emotion, actions, and tolerance levels. Similarly, mental health issues like 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.
  • Don’t gossip about their experiences. Some people were raised to not talk about mental health issues out loud or support those who struggled with dealing with it. Some are silent and avoid any conversation in fear of not knowing what to say. Others feel that they need to share other people’s stories to let go of the pressure. Make sure you keep to your word about not telling other friends or nosy family about someone’s issues with PTSD, depression, or addiction in conjunction with their sickness if they requested you to do so. They will eventually find out and root the story being spread back to you, so avoid putting yourself in that position.
  • Learn as much as possible about mental health stigma. Knowledge helps you better understand and relate to what your friends or family struggling is going through. It improves your conversations and allows you to become a more empathetic person as well since mental health issues are difficult for anyone. Don’t assume that anyone with deep depression or anxiety can just smile and look on the brighter side of life. Mental health issues are often disorders that can radically change the way someone’s brain processes emotions and the rest of the world around them.
  • Practice your listening skills. Do your research on what symptoms of mental health issues are common, how the disorders can start and what can be done to help. Keenly listening to what your peer has to say is a valuable skill and will help your relationships greatly. Learning how to listen well also makes you more likeable, present, and able to find stronger understanding of other’s perspectives. All of those qualities can seriously empower your connections and strengthen ties with those who feel that people don’t care about what they have to say.
  • Be open to having conversations that may be difficult or out of your comfort zone. Mental health issues can be hard to talk about, but imagine going though it first-hand. Make yourself available and easy to approach for your loved ones if they truly need help. If you’re constantly checking your agenda to make a lunch date or don’t’ look them in the eye when they share experiences with you, odds are that you won’t be called back the next time you start to show interest in their life. We get what we put into relationships in most cases. To make yourself appear more understanding, encourage someone with a mental disorder to reach out and share what resources you know of that may help them. Just providing a welcoming ear is more than enough for someone that might just need to blow off steam. Put yourself in their shoes first and you’ll gain a better understanding of where their head is at.

The Future Of Mental Health Stigma

We can only control what our views, words, and actions towards mental health stigma our as the world constantly changes its own opinion. You can help others overcome mental health stigma by practicing active listening, asking thoughtful questions, being genuine, providing support without judgement or encouraging them to enroll in a mental health clinic. Becoming more vocal about your encouragement for one’s mental 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!

Break the mental health stigma together.

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