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5 Ways to Help Shatter Stigma This Mental Health Awareness Month

May 12, 2017

May is a very important month for us at Prevail as we come together to spread hope and awareness of mental illness. Originally started by Mental Health America, Mental Health Awareness month has been recognized across the country since 1949. It’s hard to believe we’ve been observing this month for so long since, while we’ve made great strides in recent years, we still have a way to go to stomp out the stigma of mental health issues.

According to the CDC, published studies report that about 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime. Most adults with and without mental health symptoms agree that treatment can help people with mental illness lead normal lives yet only 25% of those with symptoms believed that people are caring and sympathetic towards them.

How can you help de-stigmatize mental illness and show care and compassion towards those affected? Here are 5 simple ways to help stomp out mental health stigma:

  1. Educate yourself. Take some time to learn about different mental illnesses. Need a place to start? NAMI has a great landing page dedicated to learning more.
  2. Stop making ignorant statements about mental illnesses. Equating a mental illness to a minor everyday inconvenience can be offensive and serve to increase mental health stigma. Examples of this are saying things like “I’m so OCD – I organized my whole bookshelf!” or “I’m so depressed I couldn’t go out last night”. These are real illnesses that can’t be boiled down to a feeling of simply being sad or organized. This line of thinking could alienate those suffering from such conditions.
  3. Know someone who might need help? Start a Conversation. Have you noticed that a friend or family member has signs of a mental health condition? Try to start a conversation. Ask questions like “I’ve been worried about you. Can we talk about what you are experiencing? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?” or “It seems like you are going through a difficult time. How can I help you to find help?” By starting a respectful conversation you’re showing that you care and are willing to help them get the care they need.
  4. Express concern and support for affected friends & family members. If your friend or family member was sick with any other disorder you’d extend kind gestures and check in on them. Do the same for people you know with mental illness. Send a text or make a quick phone call just to see how they’re doing. Invite them out, even if they reject your invitations. Reassure them that you are there for them. Above all, offer to listen and treat them with respect & empathy.
  5. End your silence. Maybe it’s you who fall into that 25% who have a mental illness. It’s okay! You’re in a position to help others in similar situations. If you feel comfortable, share your personal stories about your experience with mental illness. Hearing a kind voice share their story shows others they’re not alone and helps to shatter the stigma. Looking for an easy way to do this? Become an iPrevail Peer and help others anytime, anywhere.

Use these tips to break down barriers this May and empathize this and every month.

Know someone who needs immediate assistance? If you think your friend or family member is in danger of hurting themselves, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

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