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STOP THE STIGMA!

June 18, 2018

iPrevail’s anonymous chat platform creates a unique opportunity for people to share secrets they may have never felt comfortable sharing with others. Peers, iPrevail’s team who chat with the anonymous users, often speak with people who have never before said the words “mental health”. These anonymous users then share their trauma, relationship struggles, depression, voices they hear, dreams, and fears with a complete online stranger – but hesitate to talk to friends, family, or doctors about what they have been struggling with all by themselves. Individuals disclose sexual assault, abusive relationships, even self-harm, but somehow the stigma of trauma, the stigma of mental illnesses, intimidates people more than continuing the current pain.

In many people’s minds, their fear of other’s perceptions outweigh the possibility of help. More than anything else, people are afraid of being deemed “crazy” by anyone. The stigma of mental illness not only scares people into silence, but that silence directly results in prolonged and worsening physical and mental health, and for far too many, self harm and suicide. Reducing and someday eliminating negative perception of mental illnesses saves lives. Luckily, reducing stigma is something everyone can work towards, all we have to do is change our words.

iPrevail’s revolutionary online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) breaks mental health into three categories of focus: cognitions, emotions, and behaviors. The three areas are interdependent, for better or worse. Our thoughts and behaviors affect our emotions, and emotions affect our thoughts and behaviors.Stigma mainly affects our cognitive functioning, which later affects our emotions and behaviors. Likewise, our thoughts are also affected by those around us – so if we hear someone in a mental health crisis being called “crazy” or are told to “just focus on the positives”, we internalize those societal perceptions. We call ourselves to “get over it”, worsening an upset emotion, and making us isolate ourselves – which results starts the cycle over again as we obsess. We learn to avoid that judgement by hiding mental and emotional struggles, which continues our pain for years, a burden which just increases.

For those of us who do struggle with mental illnesses, we can redirect our thoughts to the benefits of asking for help. For those who realize the immense power their words can have and want to reduce the stigma, we can focus on listening and being present, rather than silencing others’ feelings. The success of iPrevail lies in the anonymity of chats, where trust is built quickly in an accepting and supportive environment. However, we should not leave our friends and family to online peers; we should all aim to be accepting and supportive. If you are unsure how to support someone with mental illness, or even what it means, focus on listening and learning first. If you are struggling with mental illness and feeling judged by those around you, there is help, there is plenty of support. Asking for help takes courage and strength, and we at iPrevail applaud you all for taking those steps. Let’s all continue building a community and world built on compassion and empowering one another.

 

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