by Jannel Thomas, MS, LGMFT

July 31st, 2020

There are many harmful stigmas towards individuals with mental health disorders and toward mental health services in general. Stigma refers to the shame that many with mental health disorders or those who seek mental health services deal with on a consistent basis which can lead to stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. These stigmas can range from “only crazy people go to therapy” to “people with mental health disorders are dangerous or threatening” to “people with mental health disorders have the inability to function in a healthy or competent manner.” Yet, regardless of the stigma, they all have the same disheartening impact of preventing people from getting the help they need or being shunned from friends, family, loved ones, and society. While there has been some improvement in the fight against stigma in the mental health community, there is still much more work to be done. Here’s what you can do to help fight stigma:

  1. Education is key! Awareness is the first step in fighting mental health stigma. Educate yourself and others about the truths regarding mental health disorders and mental health services. Do not believe the myths. Familiarize yourself with mental health advocate organizations such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Be intentional and conscientious about the words you choose when speaking about mental health concerns. Language matters. Words matter.
  2. Speak up! Talk openly about mental health. The more people talk about mental health, the less stigmatized it is likely to become. Talking openly about mental health normalizes mental health and helps people feel less alone. Plus, talking openly about mental health can empower those with mental health disorders by owning their story and taking away the power from the stigma associated with mental health disorders.
  3. Have an open mind! Listen to other people’s stories about their mental health journey. Do not judge or criticize them. Instead be an advocate and show you support them. Advocacy can take many different forms such as openly criticizing negative comments about mental health disorders to encouraging someone to seek mental health services. Be a part of the change.

Every single person is responsible and must play a role in the fight against stigma toward mental health. Will you join the fight against stigma?