Have you ever been judged or talked down to for going to the doctor for a broken bone or bronchitis? Probably not. Most people are very supportive when it comes to dealing with physical health needs. But when it comes to mental health issues, many individuals become awkward and uncomfortable. Some may even poke fun at those who prioritize their mental health.
No one should feel ashamed for addressing mental health issues. Failing to seek help for them could lead to a variety of unwanted health consequences. On the other hand, taking care of both your body and your mind can help you live a longer and more fulfilling life. Here are four tips for breaking down myths and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.
1. Educate Yourself
If you want to break down mental health stigma, you need to educate yourself on the subject. That includes learning as much as you can about the history of mental health issues and society’s reactions to those issues. Familiarize yourself with different types of mental illnesses and available treatment options such as psychotherapy, pharmaceuticals, and mental health rehab. The more you know about the stigmatized subject, the more persuasive your voice will be in overcoming misconceptions and myths.
The root of mental health stigma is complicated and has a long history. Ancient people often attributed psychological issues to being cursed or having bad luck. In 1939, Hitler implemented an atrocious initiative called the T-4 Program. This program led to the intentional killing of emotionally disturbed, elderly, ill, and physically or mentally disabled people. The victims were inexcusably deemed “useless eaters.”
With such a long and sordid history, it’s little wonder that the stigma surrounding mental health is still strong today. To halt continued discrimination, it’s essential to educate yourself on mental health issues and encourage others to do the same. Fortunately, there are many good books on the subject. To get a well-rounded education, read or view a variety of materials created by mental health professionals and people with mental illness.
2. Treat Physical and Mental Health Equally
Many people know much less about mental health than they do about physical health. Physical fitness is a huge trend these days, and that’s a good thing overall. Working hard to remain physically fit is essential for optimal fitness and can even boost your mental health.
Unfortunately, you’re less likely to hear health and wellness experts talk as passionately about psychotherapy as they do about exercise or weight loss drugs. To break down mental health stigma, it’s essential to treat physical and mental health equally.
To do this, talk about mental health issues just as openly as you’d talk about physical health conditions. Use the same types of language so others make the connection that mental disease is just as valid as physical disease. If someone cracks a joke at someone with a psychological difficulty, don’t laugh along. Remind them that making fun of people with mental illness is just as cruel as making fun of someone with diabetes or cancer.
3. Support Community Mental Health Initiatives
Community-based mental health initiatives can serve to shatter harmful misconceptions. They can also help citizens affected by mental illness understand the local treatment options and resources available to them. If your community has launched any mental health initiatives, show support by talking about them with your circle of influence. If you know someone struggling with an untreated mental health disorder, recommend a trusted local therapist’s services.
If your community is currently weak in the area of mental health and doesn’t offer basic services, work to encourage change. Engage with your city council to see what it would take to bring more mental health services to your area.
Be prepared to make your case with statistics and studies, such as those from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Local leadership may be moved to take action once they understand how important it is to support community mental health.
4. Encourage Empowerment Over Shame
Many people with mental illnesses live in constant shame. They may avoid social interactions because they fear the judgment and cruelty of others. You may even find yourself harboring self-stigma if you have a mental disorder. But to combat the misconceptions and stigma surrounding mental health, it’s important to participate in society. Empowerment and engagement can break down walls of shame and withdrawal.
Everyone deserves to enjoy a meaningful, purpose-driven life. No one should ever feel they don’t matter because they are combating psychological problems. When people with mental illness participate in society, they can help dispel common myths surrounding mental health. Their collective efforts can have a huge impact on how society views such issues.
Raising Your Voice for Mental Health
You may feel like your single voice can’t make much of a difference in the fight against mental health stigma, but you’re wrong. You can use your platform, big or small, to help dispel many of the common myths surrounding mental health.
The more people understand about an issue, the less likely they are to fear or unfairly judge it. Your bravery can also help others feel empowered to face their mental illnesses with greater strength and resolve. It may take time, but with continued effort, the stigma surrounding mental health can fade away.