5 Actions We Can All Take to Help Destigmatize Mental Health
The month of April has come and gone, and we have now entered the new month of May. May might seem like an ordinary month, one step closer to those desired summer months. But luckily, May has also been deemed Mental Health Awareness month… that’s right, May is a biggie. An entire month solely dedicated to Mental Health and spreading awareness in order to break any negative stigmas associated with its existence. Although each and every day we should aim to be aware and mindful of our mental state, there is no better time to discuss what we can individually do to prioritize our mental health, than during this celebratory month!
Starting on an optimistic note, I think it’s fair to say that in recent years, talk about mental health has become a bit more frequent. There are more conversations happening, more resources for people to utilize and more of a notion placed upon society that caring for our mental being isn’t just something that should fall to the wayside. This is an incredible step in the right direction! However, when it comes to destigmatizing mental health, as a whole, we still have a long way to go.
Unfortunately, the words mental health, or mental health illness, still tend to be associated with a negative connotation. There is a stigma around the idea of needing and asking for help. A stigma that considers mental health isn’t as important as physical health, or that mental health issues are just something that makes you weak; and if you’re strong enough, you can simply push past them. This my friends, is the result of a lack of awareness, education and mindfulness.
It is of course, unrealistic to say that this stigma can be broken overnight. It’ll take time, and as I’ve mentioned, we’re beginning to take steps in the right direction. But as an extra nudge to keep us in check with the world around us, here are 5 things we can all do, to help do our part to destigmatize mental health.
Number 1: Let’s keep the conversation going. The more we normalize conversations regarding mental health, the less awkward and uncomfortable people are going to feel around the topic. Speak openly, and honestly. You never know who’s listening or who needs to hear exactly what you have to say.
Number 2: Educate, educate, educate! Educate yourself, your family, your friends, anyone and everyone. Break through the stigma regarding mental health by learning the truth behind what it really means. Discover what depression truly is versus thinking it’s just being sad. Learn about the telltale signs of anxiety, understand what alleviates stress and implement these factors in your everyday life. There is never any harm in learning more about a topic. When we begin to learn the truth and share it with those around us, it produces a crack in the falsehoods created overtime.
Number 3: Reconstruct your own thoughts. Whether we realize it or not, the stigma regarding mental health is all around us, and at times, it may even be within us. Thoughts are going to pop up that align with the stigma, even if we don’t mean for them to, and that’s okay. What’s more important though is how we alter and reconstruct those thoughts to train ourselves to break the stigma within us. When we find ourselves having thoughts that don’t help a situation, be accountable. Realize what was just thought or said and take a minute to alter the language or mentality behind it to create a more positive outcome and notion.
Number 4: Be willing to be a confidant. This doesn’t mean that every ounce of your spare time needs to be spent making sure all around you are okay. However, it does mean when someone you care about needs someone to talk to, be there. Simply confiding in someone alleviates the pressure of mental stress or anxiety. Being a person that is open and willing to listen when a friend or family member needs it, not only creates a safe space, but it ensures trusts and eliminates shame.
Finally, Number 5: Establish Equality between physical health and mental health. What most people don’t realize is that our physical and mental health go hand in hand. Our mental state can affect our physical state and vice versa. When we only place importance on our physical health, our mental wellbeing is left to fend for itself, which in turn, isn’t healthy. We must look after our mental health as frequently and with as much care as we look after our physical health. Our mind is just as important as our body. Without it, we wouldn’t survive, so why not take care of it?
And there they are, 5 simple things each and every one of us can do to help break the negative stigma surrounding mental health. They seem easy right? It’s not like we’re climbing Everest here, we’re just talking, educating, and looking after ourselves and those around us. Let’s do our part and remember to always stay mindful.