Updated: Aug 26
Dear Non Mental Health People,
Hi! Now that I have your attention, I want to start off by saying that you do not exist. Every person on this planet has to consider their mental health as a component of their well-being, including you. For example, just because a person is free of physical injuries and ailments, does not mean that they do not regularly monitor their physical health. We go to the doctor every year to check our overall wellness, monitor any existing conditions, and discuss any issues or concerns that may potentially need further investigation. Our mental and physical health are dynamic aspects of our overall health, and are integral to our functionality and well-being. We typically do not get embarrassed about saying that we went to the doctor for a check-up. We would typically not be ashamed to say, “I broke my arm and I had to go to the hospital.” So, let me ask you this, why would we feel any different about going to a doctor or therapist to get a check-up on our mental health? Why would we feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed to say, “I’m not feeling mentally or emotionally well, I need to go see a doctor”?
Why Is Mental Health Not Openly Discussed?
I will tell you why we feel embarrassed and ashamed of talking about our mental health or mental health in general, it is because of stigma. Stigma is defined as, “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person” (Lexico.com). The stigma around mental health tells us that it is bad and wrong for individuals to have challenges to their mental health; that we are weird and unworthy if we do not have perfect mental functioning 100% of the time. People have been called “crazy” and told that they should go to “the looney bin” if they are unable to cope with all of life’s unpredictable circumstances. Have these terms and phrases ever helped anyone? No, in fact, the opposite is true. These terms and phrases were strictly created and used to guilt and humiliate those who are struggling with their mental health; to shame them so much that they fear going to get the help that could benefit them.
Our society is under the impression that “if you cannot see it, it must not exist.” That if you cannot physically see what someone is struggling with, their struggle must not be real. This notion is completely false and is merely another way to ignore the real issues regarding mental health. So many people are struggling in silence because their wounds are invisible to the naked eye. Their wounds are in their minds. If you could always see what was going on in someone else’s mind, I bet that you would put more thought and care into the way that you speak to them, because you would be able to see that they are struggling. In fact, I am sure that you would encourage them to talk to someone and to get the help that could improve their well-being, functionality, and mindset; the help that they may feel guilty or ashamed about reaching out for.
What Can We Do To Help Reduce The Negative Stigma Surrounding The Term “Mental Health?”
1. The simplest and most effective way to start reducing this stigma is to BE KIND to everyone, no matter who they are or what their circumstances are. We have all been through hard times and experienced things that we chose to keep private. People should not have to advertise their hardships for others to be kind to them when they are struggling. People act and behave the way that they do for a reason: they learn through their experiences. It is not our place to judge, criticize, or demean those who benefit from professional psychological support.
2. Another strategy that we can use to reduce the negative stigma surrounding mental health is to BECOME EDUCATED about it. What is mental health? What does it look like? What are some of the signs and symptoms of mental illness? How does it affect one’s ability to function at school, at work, in their relationships, with their family, etc.? How can you be supportive to someone who is struggling with their mental health? Not all people struggle with their mental health in the same way, so it is important to learn how to be sensitive and supportive to each individual’s needs. If you are not sure what to do to support someone who is struggling with their mental health, ask them. They may be grateful that someone would like to listen to them and learn from them. The world around us will be a much safer, kinder, and healthier space for everyone if we took a little more time and effort to understand the true meaning of mental health.
3. Lastly, we can become aware and be accepting of the fact that EVERYONE HAS MENTAL HEALTH. Mental health is a facet of everyone’s well-being, and it is not a bad or taboo topic that we should shy away from discussing. Mental health is just as (and in some cases more) important to our overall health as our physical health, and we all need to start treating it in a way that reflects its importance. Our society strongly influences how individuals view mental health. Use your voice to demonstrate compassion and to advocate for the normalization of mental health discussions, supports, and treatments.
How do you view the stigma surrounding mental health?
Let us know in the comments below!
Written By: Taryn Moga