Canadian Mental Health Association defines mental health as a state of well-being in which a person:
Recognizes his or her own abilities
Can cope with the normal stresses of life
Can work productively and fruitfully
Is able to make a contribution to his or her community
The lives of people with mental health conditions are often plagued by stigma as well as discrimination. Stigma is a negative stereotype. Stigma is a reality for many people with a mental illness. People with a mental illness report that how others judge them is one of their greatest barriers to a complete and satisfying life. Discrimination is a behaviour that results from stigma.
How Can We Reduce Mental Health Stigma?
It's important to understand stigma, its effects, and how to reduce it. Try these tips!
What can you do to reduce stigma?
Educate yourself about mental illness including substance use disorders.
Are there books you can read?
Is there a documentary you can watch?
Is there someone you can ask?
Then share what you learn with others. It's easier to talk about difficult topics like mental health when it's not a time of crisis.
Observe Your Own Behaviour
Be aware of your attitudes and behaviours. Examine your own judgmental thinking.
Do you find yourself judging people who seem stress? Try to catch yourself, and question why you are making this judgement.
Be mindful of how you speak. Choose your words carefully.
Calling someone 'crazy' even as a joke is a simple action that reinforces a negative stigma.
If your friend upset you, what might you say instead of calling them "crazy"?
Choose to Be an Ally
Mental illness is only part of anyone's larger picture. Focus on the positive, and offer support or encouragement to others. Especially when you notice someone might be struggling.
This can be as simple as a compliment: "Hey, that seemed like a tough situation. I think you did a really good job."
Invite others who are not usually part of your inner circle. This can be as simple as inviting someone who isn't usually included to share a coffee with you.
What can you do differently today?
Is there someone you could be more supportive of?
Take a few minutes right now to make a list of three things you can do to reduce mental health stigma. Then put them into action this week!
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