How You Can Help #EndTheStigma of Mental Health Conditions

If you fell and twisted your ankle while crossing a street, you wouldn’t hesitate to ask whomever was nearby for help getting safely to the other side and figuring out where to go for treatment. You wouldn’t feel shame over your injury or worry that you would get judged for being hurt.

That all changes when the health issue goes from physical to mental. The stigma surrounding mental health makes it much more difficult for someone to ask for help or know who to reach out to. Often, those battling mental illness are afraid to speak up in fear of being shamed, ignored or even told their condition “isn’t real.” As a result, the sufferer feels isolated and alone.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth: Statistics show that approximately one in five adults in the United States experience mental illness to some degree in any given year. Only 41 percent of adults with a mental health condition receive potentially life-saving professional care often due to shame and fear of rejection.

The good news is that like the man with a broken leg, you can help end the stigma surrounding mental health. This key is beginning to educate yourself on the signs of mental illnesses and having open conversations with people in your life and encouraging anyone who needs it to get help. Actor Glenn Close put it simply: “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation about illnesses that affect not only individuals but their families as well.”

Silence is Never the Answer

Mental health disorders are not one-size-fits-all, but there is one thing every single situation has in common: you need to talk openly about what’s going on. If you’re a friend, parent or sibling of someone you think is struggling with their mental health, an important first step is to have a conversation about what’s going on. Not sure how to start? A simple “how are you feeling?” can be the opening someone needs. Reassure them a few times throughout the conversation that you’re there to help and not judge their feelings.

Reach Out for Support

If you think your loved one would benefit from seeing a professional, bring up the fact that people often can’t just get over things on their own and that talk therapy and possibly medication can help. Offer to help them find a therapist so they don’t feel like it’s all on their shoulders (a simple guide for finding a professional near you can be found here). The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also offers a directory to community health services available across the state.

Mental health is a journey, but these combined steps are the first moves toward ending the stigma around internal battles the people you love most may be facing. Looking for a community that is dedicated to promoting mental health awareness? #EndTheStigma is creating a safe online space to share comments, thoughts and resources for those looking to learn more.

Photo credit: Marie L.

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