The human condition is to seek information. This is demonstrated in so many areas of progress, our desire to seek outward into space and explore the cosmos, our desire to look inward to understand personal connections to spirituality, and beautifully, our desire to understand the human mind and psyche. While general empathy still lacks in many specific areas of mental illness, there is an overall movement towards understanding the nature of mental illness and acceptance for those who struggle. As we gain an understanding of how the symptoms of mental illness affect the everyday lives of those around us, the stigma around these challenges changes.
How Can I Help Change the Stigma?
There has, for a long time, been a reluctance to openly discuss mental health challenges, but that is changing generationally. Generation Z, the youngest population of adults, is 27% more likely than previous generations to report challenges in mental health. The conversation is changing and it’s bringing about awareness. Those of us that work to maintain our own mental health can be instrumental in continuing to further positive outlook that smashes whatever cultural stigmas exist.
Talk Openly About Your Own Mental Health – Part of the stigma surrounding mental health is based on the silence that has always been encouraged around it. Talk about what mental health looks like for you. Not only can this help self-stigmatizing by giving you space to talk openly about who you are, but it can shed light on what the average person who struggles with mental health goes through on a daily basis and increase awareness and understanding. Be willing to talk about your challenges and victories with interested people.
Be Mindful of Language – In the mental health and recovery space, the language is constantly evolving to include less stigmatizing and inherently negative language. Be mindful of the terminology you use, not only with yourself and those close to you but to those you share openly about mental health challenges with. Language is one of the most powerful tools we have to teach and to inspire change, and positive language when talking about mental health can inspire positive outlooks and understanding.
Show Compassion and Empower Others – Part of practicing awareness about mental health should include honesty, and the reality of a mental health diagnosis is that not every day will be easy. Talk about the struggles and the difficult days, and show yourself compassion. Extend this same compassion to others that share openly with you, and empower them by celebrating their victories. Allow yourself to feel inspired and let others know that they inspire you. Mental health creates warriors and innovators and this should be celebrated.
Talk Openly About Treatment – The more people understand about how mental illness is treated the more comfortable they might feel about seeking treatment themselves. Talk openly about what treatment looks like to reduce fear and stigma around what daily care for a mental health diagnosis can look like. Don’t avoid the harder parts of the journey, allow people the full picture, and encourage the positive gains made through things like therapy and medical intervention.
Changes in Representation
One main cause of the stigma surrounding mental health is a lack of understanding. Movies and television have also, in the past, perpetuated negative stereotypes of mental health. They often portray characters who have “escaped” mental health wards as villains or even simply depict mental health wards as solely being filled with people talking to thin air and screaming profanities. However, in recent years, the shift has been in screenwriting, that now depicts more genuine portrayals of those who have and manage mental health diagnoses. These characters are often brought to meaningful arcs that do not include the magic removal of their struggles but often include an increased understanding of their illness for those that surround them. These positive portrayals are part of a general changing of the stigma surrounding mental health.
The best representation in mental health is the average patient who works to maintain the symptoms and lead the best life possible. No matter what progress is made, there is more room for positive growth. There are over 46% of Americans alone that struggle with mental health at one point or another in their lives. Nearly half of the population may have experienced these challenges but many, especially those in older generations who were not able to be part of the open dialogue that exists now in youth, have yet to gain comfort in reaching out for help. Mental health is not a sentence or a curse, but something many people work to live through and around. Positive empowerment and open willingness to discuss it’s nature can help continue this conversation forward.
Ashley Addiction Treatment believes that connection is the key to recovery, with treatment options focused on holistic, integrated, and uplifting care. Ashley offers a positive and open environment that supports healing in mental health. If you would like to speak to someone about our care options, please reach out to us today at (800) 799-4673.