Mental health issues are common and affect millions of people around the world. However, many people who struggle with mental health problems face stigma and discrimination from society, which can make them feel isolated, ashamed, and reluctant to seek help. Stigma is a negative attitude or belief that leads to fear, rejection, or prejudice towards a person or a group of people. Stigma can have harmful effects on the mental and physical health of people with mental health issues, such as lower self-esteem, increased stress, reduced social support, and poorer treatment outcomes.
At St Martins, we have been practising different ways to reduce stigma around mental health issues and create a more supportive and inclusive environment for all residents and staff who experience them. Some of those practical ways we have informed them about are:
- Educate yourself and others about mental health issues. Learn the facts and myths about mental health issues, such as their causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevalence. Share this information with your family, friends, colleagues, and community members. Challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions that fuel stigma and discrimination. For example, you can correct someone who uses derogatory or insensitive language to describe a person with a mental health issue or explain that mental health issues are not a sign of weakness or character flaw.
- Show empathy and compassion to people with mental health issues. Listen to their stories and experiences without judgment or criticism. Express your support and encouragement. Offer your help if they need it, such as accompanying them to a doctor’s appointment or checking in on them regularly. Respect their privacy and confidentiality. Treat them with dignity and kindness, just like you would treat anyone else.
- Speak up and advocate for mental health awareness and rights. Use your voice and platform to raise awareness and educate others about mental health issues. Join or support campaigns and movements that promote mental health awareness and fight stigma and discrimination. For example, you can participate in events such as World Mental Health Day or Mental Health Awareness week or sign petitions that call for better mental health policies and services. You can also share your own story or perspective on mental health issues, if you feel comfortable doing so, to inspire others and reduce stigma.
- Seek help if you have a mental health issue or know someone who does. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Mental health issues are treatable and manageable with the right support and care. There are many resources and services available to help you or someone you care about cope with mental health issues, such as NHS, Mind, Samaritans, or BetterHelp. You can also talk to your GP, a counsellor, a therapist, or a trusted person about your feelings and concerns. Remember that you are not alone and that there is hope for recovery.
Reducing stigma around mental health issues is not only beneficial for people who experience them, but also for society as a whole. It can improve the quality of life, well-being, and productivity of everyone. It can also foster a culture of acceptance, diversity, and inclusion that values and respects everyone’s mental health. By following these tips, you can contribute to reducing stigma around mental health issues and make a positive difference in the world.
NHS UK – https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/
Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/
Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/
BetterHelp – https://www.betterhelp.com/