Bands, celebrities, and other icons make a difference by talking about mental health and mental illness. While some may think it's a publicity stunt, having larger-than-life people use their platforms in this way can have a positive impact on their fans and help fight against stigma.
How to Combat Stigma
The idea that mental health costs us money as a society is factual, but this is not a useful strategy in reducing stigma. That said, there are a number of strategies used in the effort of reducing mental health stigma that do work. Within the advocacy community itself, I feel many, if not most, are spot on or on the right track. But doing a high-level look at some of the strategies used, it's time to rethink how we're going to slow the impact of mental health stigma.
Despite my best efforts and all that I do, I sometimes catch myself thinking stigmatizing thoughts related to mental health and people with mental illness. I'm sure others do too, especially those who may be new to the mental health sphere. There are steps we can take to manage those stigmatizing thoughts to turn them around and lessen their frequency.
People underestimate how powerful compassion is for getting through tough times. Sure, facing hard realities is a necessary part of recovery and tough love can be beneficial. But, ultimately, I believe it's the power of compassion that'll help us through the hardest moments and that it's the most beneficial to those with mental illness and their loved ones.
It's not just those of us with mental illness who combat or want to combat mental health stigma. People in our support systems and others who may not have a connection to mental illness often want to do something as well. Maybe it's a matter of not knowing what to do or where to start, maybe it's something else. Whatever it is, if you fall into those categories, this post with tips to combat stigma is for you.
I combat self-stigma with books about mental health because as much as I love the online world and the connections it's helped me make, there's something about a physical book that can't be beat. I often find myself looking for books when I want to read personal accounts of journeys with mental illness and health in general. It's not just about reading the stories though — I find I seek them out most when the noise in my head is too loud. Reading these kinds of stories actually helps me combat self-stigma drumming away in the back of my mind.
Sometimes when we think about how to stand up to stigma about mental health, I think we get too caught up in the idea of an outward battle against mental health stigma. We might forget that we can arm and armor ourselves against it. As I've written before, mental health stigma may never go away, so it's about equipping and molding ourselves to better be able to withstand it. It doesn't just happen with a snap of our fingers though; it's a process to take on and continuously work at. If you're needing encouragement or guidance to stand up to stigma, here are some things you can try.
The effect of exercise on mental health and mental illness isn't what most people think. One of the go-to remedies for those who don’t understand mental illness is to suggest those who have a mental illness exercise as if it’s a cure. It’s often used in the argument that pharmaceuticals are bad by saying regular exercise is the only real cure. While being active can have a positive effect on some people, it’s still not a cure for mental illnesses. Because of that, the suggestion of exercise to fix them is very much a notion of stigma because of its oversimplification and misunderstanding of mental illness.
Is it possible to destigmatize mental illness by refusing to use the word "stigma?" If you’re having a discussion about mental illness, it’s almost inevitable someone will mention stigma. When talking mental health, stigma refers to the misinformed perceptions and ideas about mental illness and those with it. It’s a big component in why people feel ashamed to have a mental illness and suffer in silence instead of seeking mental health treatment and understanding that mental illness is just an illness. Since there is still widespread misinformation, it’s not surprising the word "stigma" comes up often. What is surprising, however, is that there are those who say stigma does not exist, we should stop using the word "stigma," and I’ve even seen the claim that it’s offensive. Can we destigmatize mental illness by not using the word "stigma?"
I’ve begun to wonder if current mental health awareness efforts are enough to fight stigma. The word "awareness" in relation to mental illness has a strange effect on me these days. On the one hand, I think awareness is great for helping people better understand the realities of mental illness and the people who live with it. On the other, I feel the word itself feels tired, overused, and almost ineffective as it seems to appear in many places, but somehow manages to lack the impact it could have. I'm not sure if mental health awareness efforts are enough.