Fight the Stigma of Mental Illness
May is Mental Health Month, and this year the timing is especially essential in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak and the additional stress and strain associated with living in a pandemic. Even if you have always considered yourself to be mentally healthy and resilient before, these uniquely trying times have presented us all with new challenges. How can you fight the stigma of mental illness this month and all year long? Consider these tips.
1. Demonstrate Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Mental illness and substance abuse issues often go hand in hand. Many people living with disorders such as PTSD or depression seek to dull the pain with drugs or alcohol. However, heavy drinking and drug use can make these symptoms worse. Instead, turn to healthy outlets such as exercise, meditation, journaling and other drug-free ways to practice self-care.
2. Advocate for Yourself
One of the best ways to fight the stigma of mental illness is to speak up and be honest about the struggles you have faced. It can be scary to do this, especially if you are worried about how others will perceive you. However, your voice can make a difference. If you hear or see someone saying something rude or disparaging about mental illness – either in person or online – you can use this as a teachable moment to speak up and express how their careless words made you feel.
3. Shift the Narrative Around Mental Illness
Most of us wouldn’t dream of shaming someone with a physical disability or a chronic illness such as diabetes by suggesting it’s somehow their fault. Sadly, however, society blames many people living with mental illnesses such as anxiety and PTSD for having a “weakness” or a condition they could control if they only tried a bit harder. You may have experienced this if anyone has ever asked you why you couldn’t “just snap out of” depression, for example. Mental illness is just as much of a genuine medical concern as heart disease or cancer, and you should frame it in those terms.
4. Choose to Live an Empowered Life
Instead of feeling ashamed of the ways your mental illness has set you apart from society, celebrate your differences. For example, there are some advantages to having anxiety, such as that when a crisis does occur in your life, you may be able to handle it with more equanimity because your brain has already foreseen it as a worst-case scenario.
5. Talk Openly About Mental Health
Take inspiration from some of Hollywood’s hottest celebrities, such as Taraji P. Henson and Kristen Bell, who have opened up about the issues they’ve faced and how they have handled them. Destigmatizing mental health means positioning it as a human issue, not something that “only happens to other people.” Even if you have never encountered any problems with your mental health, it’s likely someone in your life has – especially now that coronavirus concerns are dominating global headlines and creating a widespread mental health crisis.
6. Don’t Self-Isolate
Withdrawing from society is a hallmark of many mental illnesses, such as depression. However, loneliness can exacerbate the symptoms of mental health problems. To fight the stigma of mental illness, stay connected with others who can lend a caring ear, such as family, close friends, your mentor or spiritual leader or members of a support group. Even if you need to do this online or via phone for the foreseeable future to keep yourself and others safe, virtual connections can be valuable, too.
7. Seek Help
You may be reluctant to admit you have issues you can’t solve on your own. But if you were managing a chronic problem with your physical health, you’d probably want to see your doctor as soon as possible. There is no shame in needing the additional support a licensed counselor can provide, nor is there anything wrong with telling others that you’ve been working with a therapist. Even the happiest people can benefit from having a nonjudgmental listener to help them work through life’s challenges.
Stay Healthy at Beach House
We still have a long way to go to fight the stigma of mental illness, but during this Mental Health Month, think about how you might encounter this issue in your daily life and what you can do to combat it. Whether it’s finally committing to therapy, honoring your differences or the simple act of speaking up, there’s always something you can do to help others understand that mental health challenges are a normal part of life for many of us.
At Beach House, we are doing our part to help serve people with mental health challenges and their co-occurring substance use disorders at our beautiful, secluded Florida campus. Learn more about the extensive steps we have taken to keep our facility safe, clean and COVID-19 symptom-free during these extraordinary times, then reach out to learn more.