Whether it’s your 5-year-old child or your partner who works a full-time job, or even you, we all are suffering from mental health. Especially after the pandemic, it is pretty common for us to say that. But is it accepted in our society? No. Is it acceptable to talk about it openly? No. Should we normalize it? Definitely, yes!
Every person goes through a lot in a day. Teenagers go through peer pressure or their unseen efforts to show their best. Or the stress of meeting the deadlines in a workplace. The financial crisis, emotional crisis, and the list goes on. Worldwide, around 51 million people have bipolar disorder, a condition that causes severe mood swings. When conditions are this pervasive, the world cannot afford to ignore them.
While mental health is gradually making its way to the forefront of people’s consciousness, there is still a long way to address and freely discuss mental health problems, particularly in the workplace. Some people are in denial about their condition, while others fear being judged by their peers and the associated stigma.
Stigma makes individuals feel humiliated for something over which they have no control. Worse, stigma hinders individuals from getting the care they require. Stigma is an intolerable addition to the suffering of a group of individuals who already shoulder a heavy burden. Although stigma has been decreased in recent years, the pace of change has been too poor.
Ways To Normalize Mental Health – How to End Mental Health Stigma?
Until recently, many individuals avoided confronting mental health. It is time to begin normalizing mental health disorders and reducing the stigma attached to illnesses such as anxiety and depression, which are rarely addressed on television or in the media. More sufferers will seek care if their experiences are accepted.
- Speak Up – Talk about it Openly
The first step in normalizing disorders such as depression and anxiety is to start an unashamedly open communication about how these impact us; it is everyone’s role to address mental health as if it were a typical cold.
Some unpleasant issues can be relegated to hushed whispers, but this just ends up making the subject appear scarier than it is. There is nothing to fear when we talk about mental health; it is as widespread as the flu, therefore speaking openly can alleviate the stigma.
- Be Conscious of Your Demeanor
When someone admits to having a stomach ache, it is usual to sympathize with them since it is considered to be entirely beyond their control; however, this is not the case for mental health disorders. We disregard the negative influence of mental health disorders when we reject our suffering or the feelings of others around us.
If we want to normalize the disease, we must strive to empathize with patients and ourselves. Listening to one other, being compassionate to ourselves, and recognizing that a mental health sufferer has no control over what they feel without support are examples of this.
- Educate Yourself & Others
Little is done to educate people on what mental health truly means, the many types of diseases, and what has to be done to mitigate the consequences – for example, there is much more to OCD than simply just being “afraid” of germs; in some situations, germs aren’t even a part of the problem.
- Listen & Observe
When a friend or family member confesses about suffering, we as a community must listen without judgment or preconceptions. The chat must be invited to provide a secure environment for people to express their thoughts and feelings openly.
Meeting in a quiet area, avoiding interruptions, and accepting what they say as truth without implying that they are “making things up” or “overreacting” are all examples of this. It takes a lot of bravery to talk about our insecurities and weaknesses, but we can normalize mental health with the appropriate encouragement.
- Think Before You Speak
Both patients and their loved ones are guilty of using terms such as “crazy,” “I’m so OCD/depressed,” and “you’ll be OK,” which only serve to discredit mental health conditions.
The life-changing impacts of diseases like OCD and depression have degraded meanings by using such terms, resulting in a cautious conversation that has less influence on the unsympathetic, ingrained image of mental health. Finally, mental health symptoms must be regarded more seriously and not used as a device of generalization.
- Quit making Excuses
We all find ourselves in guilt when we have committed to plans that we just cannot fulfill – not because we are lazy or unsociable, but because leaving the house becomes dreadful. Rather than lying about your car having a flat tire, be honest about what is preventing you from stepping out and why you must prioritize your mental health.
Your friends and family will most certainly be disappointed that you aren’t seeing them, but they should realize that if you could honor social obligations, you would. It is necessary to balance pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone to keep friendships and being open about how mental health disorders affect us daily.
- Seek Therapy or Guidance
There is no shame in seeking help, in whatever shape it may take. It is typical for individuals to dismiss mental health medicine or therapy as a waste of time; nevertheless, they can mean the difference between life and death for those suffering from mental illnesses.
Though exercise and a balanced diet improve our general well-being, some patients find it difficult to step out of the home and go to the gym in the first place without medical or professional assistance. Like those who rely on an inhaler for Asthma, some mental health patients require assistance to function in society.
- Don’t Make it Your Identity
Because language is so powerful, changing the words we use may affect how we see ourselves and others. Instead of stating “I am mentally sick,” words like “I have a mental illness” might help us detach ourselves from a condition that should not define us.
Just as we don’t identify as walking runny noses in the winter, mental health issues should not be used to characterize who we are as individuals but rather to categorize what we are going through at the time. There is nothing wrong with being mentally sick, but referring to it as a disease rather than a person might help de-stigmatize disorders like anxiety and depression.
These are just a few simple tips on how we can start spreading our collective knowledge of mental health. Taking little steps regularly makes it easier to talk honestly about the difficulties we all encounter. Hopefully, by practicing these, we will be able to minimize stigma and support one another.