Fight The Stigma
by Ashley Barber on May 10th, 2022
Fight The Stigma:
It’s no secret that there is a negative perception in regards to mental health or illness. Despite what we have heard or been told, it is not easy to talk about something so personal to you. The best way for us, that means you too, to promote mental health and wellness is to simply talk about it. Let’s step out of the dark ages and into the light of the 21st century! Don’t know where to start? Here are a few things that have helped me. It’s ok if you think they won’t work for you, but let’s keep an open mind.
Gain perspective. Hearing your diagnosis for the first time is like getting punched in the gut. The doc told me, “I can see this has upset you. Is it because you have been diagnosed with a mental illness?” Absolutely it was! Then, very seriously, the doc says, “You are more than your diagnosis and your defining traits have nothing to do with that. Traits such as your compassion, personality, skills and talents are what make you, you.” That took a moment to sink in.
Depression for instance, is something you have. It does not define you. Yes, it does make everyday life a little more challenging, but you can take action to minimize your symptoms and control your depression, anxiety, etc. Am I saying this will be easy? No. This will be a long road. Start by speaking to a professional and making a true effort to control and manage your symptoms. Mental illness often shows itself as a physical illness and should be carefully treated.
Share your story. Use your mental health journey to inspire others and encourage them to get help. Show others that even though there are terrible stereotypes about mental illness, they are not true. You have struggled and overcome mental illness, or may be struggling to overcome, and that is ok. Use social media and other platforms to send positive messages about mental health. The more you talk about it, the less alone you’ll feel. Sharing with others can be cathartic and empowering for both you and the person reading on the other end. We all struggle, and it helps to know that there are people who will listen without judgment and give an encouraging word every now and then.
Educate yourself. And others! Find out what mental illness is, and isn’t, and how you fall into the mix. At the beginning of my journey with anxiety and depression, I was scared and ashamed that something was “wrong” with me. Once I started to educate myself, I felt more confident and started to come up with tools to help myself when I was struggling. Immediately I realized that my inner voice was using hurtful words and labels when I was having a particularly difficult time. I thought this was funny, not haha but ironically, because I would never say the things my inner voice was saying to me, to anyone. They were mean and nasty words meant to belittle myself, not build me up. From then on, I completely stop what I am doing if I feel my inner voice is starting to be a bully and tell it to, “SHUT IT!” Sometimes I say it out loud or in front of a mirror. I wouldn’t let anyone else talk to me that way, so why would I talk to myself that way. That has been a very helpful phrase, and occasionally a mantra to get myself back on track.
Be a mental health advocate. Speak up if you suspect someone may be in a crisis or struggling with their mental health. Send messages of support and assist with finding help if needed. Any signs of self-harm or harming of others should be immediately reported.
(Fight Stigma and Support Mental Health | Depression Center | Michigan Medicine, n.d.)