It’s time to talk about mental health. Yep, that’s right, we’re diving into that sometimes-awkward topic that’s not always easy to discuss. But, mental health is just as important as the physical, and it’s time to start normalizing it. According to the World Health Organization’s World mental health report, 970 million people around the world struggle with some mental illness or drug abuse, and 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lives. Clearly, mental health is something many of us struggle with, so it’s important that we take steps to reduce stigma and make it easier for people to seek help. Here’re some tips to help break down those barriers and begin fostering a culture of empathy and understanding.
Talking openly about mental health goes a long way in decreasing stigma. By having more conversations, and creating an open dialogue, we can help normalize mental wellness and help people feel more comfortable seeking the help they need.
If someone confides in you about their mental health struggles, listen without judgment and offer your support. Check in with your friends and family regularly and actively listen to what they have to say. Helping others feel heard and validating their emotions can help build trust and create a safe space for open communication. This can make it easier for people to speak up in future and may make them feel more confident to seek help when needed.
We don’t lump colds, broken bones or asthma into the one ‘physical illness’ category, and it should be the same with mental health. There are many different mental illnesses, each with their own unique symptoms and behaviours. Learning about these, and sharing this information eliminates misconceptions that contribute to stigma. By understanding different mental health conditions properly, we can helps reduce misinformation and myths. Reading books or articles, or even attending workshops or online courses can be a good place to start.
Sharing your own experiences with mental health can help reduce stigma by showing that it’s a common struggle. It can also encourage others to seek help. Be mindful however, to only share what you are comfortable with, and never force anyone disclose their own struggles, unless they’re willing. Consider people’s comfort levels (and your own) when sharing personal information and respect each other’s boundaries.
The way we speak can affect the attitudes of others. Avoid using derogatory or stigmatizing language when referring to mental health conditions and use neutral or positive language to promote understanding and acceptance.
Get involved with mental health organizations or initiatives in your community. Donate, volunteer, or participate in events that raise awareness about mental health and help support organisations that provide mental health resources.
Aside from breaking down stigma, a big part of normalizing mental wellness is recognizing the importance of mental health resources and increasing access to them. There are a ton of fantastic organisations offering help for those struggling with mental health, and many great online resources too.
In the US, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a national helpline for individuals seeking mental health support and treatment. This is a free, confidential, treatment referral and information service that operates 24/7, 365 days a year. There are also many non-profit organizations dedicated to improving mental health, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America. Both of these organisations focus on education and reducing barriers to treatment and services.
For therapy, a great resource for those seeking a more affordable option is Open Path Collective, a service which clients with mental health professionals who offer therapy for $40-70 per session. Sessions are available in person and online. When searching for mental health resources, it’s important to recognise that different resources may work better for different individuals. Finding a method of treatment and support that works for you will help you reap long term benefits. What helps someone else might not help you, and that’s ok! There’s no wrong or right way to approach seeking help, what’s important is finding the right fit. If you chose to pursue therapy, having an initial consult call with a psychologist or psychiatrist can really help. Most offer a 15-minute consult call that will allow you to ask questions about their approach, experience, and qualifications. This can help you get a better sense of whether they might be a good fit for you and your needs and can also help you clarify your own goals for therapy.