A little boy is riding around on his bike. He takes a corner too fast, the tires cannot grip the gravel and he falls. His knee is skinned, and as the stinging sets in, he begins to cry.
Dad runs over to evaluate the injuries. He sees that the boy is only left with a scrape and tells him to “be a big boy” and “stop crying.”
If the boy had broken a bone or gotten more seriously hurt, perhaps this scenario would have played out differently. Often, and only when something is visibly wrong, or it's something we understand is validated, which can be translated to mental health.
Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health. Because we cannot physically see the ailment or condition or don’t fully understand it, it gets less validation. This, however, does not make mental health any less important than physical wellness.
It is time for the mental health stigma to end, so our team at Vivage is sharing five ways to help minimize it.
1. Educate Yourself
Knowledge is power, and learning as much as you can about mental health is the first step in reducing the stigma. Once you learn more, you may find that many of the stereotypes you have heard and come to believe to be untrue.
Learning about the different types of mental health conditions, symptoms, and treatments, just like you would for any other medical ailment, can go a long way in changing the mindset surrounding mental health.
2. Be Mindful of Language
The words you use to describe mental health make an impact. The Eisenberg Family Depression Center at the University of Michigan states, “avoid using hurtful words and labels such as ‘nuts,’ ‘crazy,’ or ‘strange’ when talking about yourself or someone else with a mental illness.”
These words, even when used as a “catchall” description, could make someone experiencing mental health issues feel embarrassed and reluctant to seek treatment.
3. Separate the Person From the Diagnosis
We all wear many hats and identify with several labels and roles: daughter/son, mother/father, sister/brother, coworker, etc. While all of these describe us and are part of who we are, not one of these labels or titles defines us. So, why do we often define a person by their mental health?
A major step in reducing the mental health stigma is to separate the person and their mental health diagnosis. For example, instead of “he is bipolar,” say, “he has bipolar disorder.” Or, instead of “she is depressed,” say, “she is dealing with depression.”
By making this simple change, you are acknowledging that the person is more than their mental illness and is not defined by this one aspect of themselves.
4. Show Compassion and Dignity
If someone is experiencing challenges with their mental health, they may need to talk to someone. Show compassion by simply listening without judgement and encouraging them to seek treatment or professional help.
Help reduce the mental health stigma by showing you support them and are empathetic to what they are going through and their situation.
5. Seek Professional Help
One of the best ways to reduce the mental health stigma is to seek treatment if you need it. You do not need to handle your mental health alone or feel ashamed about getting professional support.
At Vivage, we have communities that offer behavioral health services in a supportive environment. Safety and well-being are at the forefront of our care and program development. We take a person-directed approach to care and support individuals living with mental health challenges in non-secure and secure environments.
Our multifaceted solutions offer therapeutic activities, engaging environments, specially trained staff, and core values and care that focus on person-centered approaches to create a sense of community.
Physical and mental health need to be equalized. Just because mental health issues cannot be seen does not make them any less real than physical ailments. At Vivage, we offer a holistic approach that cares for the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. This means we work hard to create personalized care plans that incorporate all types of wellness, including mental health.
To learn more about the behavioral mental health services we offer at Vivage, we encourage you to visit our website.