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Today is World Mental Health Day. A day that aims to raise awareness of mental health disorders and begin to end the stigma that surrounds the very words, ‘mental health’.
As some of you will know, I have mental health problems, an illness, a disorder – what even is the best way to put it? I don’t feel ill at times. I don’t look ill. But how we speak about mental health and how we perceive it massively affects the stigma’s longevity. So whilst we can fund and awareness raise, what else can we do to break down the stigma?
Oh boy have I been the worst culprit of this. But using words like, ‘mental’, ‘crazy’ and ‘psycho’ as descriptor all perpetuate the stigma. When we describe someone who has done something wrong, as a psychopath, people with psychotic disorders are lumped into the same pot. When someone acts erratically and we describe them as, ‘mental’, we are perpetuating the stereotype that all people who have mental health disorders act erratically. Just by dropping certain terms out of our vernacular can help to end the stigma. There are terms that used to describe people with physical disabilities or Down Syndrome that are no longer used – we can do the same here.
Due to stigma, many people with mental health disorders feel ashamed of the label that is attached to them. This is how stigma grows. If more people speak out about what they’re coping with and share the things they learn about themselves then it becomes normalised. Because it is ‘normal’. 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children have diagnosed mental health disorders. It is normal.
If you don’t have a mental health disorder, you should be doing your bit to help those who do. When you’re fighting with your own brain on a daily basis it can be pretty tough to also fight the stigma. So for those of you who aren’t fighting with themselves, letthose who are know that you’re there. Make yourself available for them to lean on where possible and call out mistreatment when you see it.
Stigma exists because of ignorance. When people see the extreme aspects of some mental health disorders, they think everything and everyone is like that. There is so much information available around mental health that there is just no excuse for ignorance anymore. Websites like Mind provide easily digestible factsheets on the most common mental health disorders and Time To Change has stories of real people and how they overcome their problems. Read them. Absorb them. Share them. Let them change how you and those around you see mental health.
Finally, stigma is attached to mental health disorders because they are invisible. The burden of proof is always on the individual to ‘prove’ they need help in a way that having a physical, obvious impairment isn’t. If someone tells you they need help. See them. If someone close to you seems to be struggling. See them. If they want to educate you on their disorder or others. See them.
This World Mental Health Day, try to see what having a disorder is like for the 1 in 4 and do your bit to bring an end to the stigma.
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