While the 21st century has put a spotlight on one of the most common human experiences, learn how you can raise mental illness awareness here.
Mental illness is still spoken about in hushed tones or with language that promotes misunderstanding.
The way people talk about it might cause you to think that poor mental health is uncommon. In reality, nearly one in five adults in the United States struggle with some type of mental illness.
The lack of sound, evidence-based knowledge surrounding mental health and illness is damaging for everyone, including people who never go through it.
That’s why it’s so important to raise mental illness awareness among the general public.
How can you make a difference? It’s not hard. It starts by talking.
- Talk to Your Friends and Family
Given that one in five will deal with some type of mental illness at some point, then either you or someone you know will go through a crisis.
So, ask the people in your life how they’re doing. If you see them struggling at work or with personal relationships, listen to them — really listen. Acknowledge their feelings and experiences because they’re valid.
You may also find it helpful to share your own experience.
If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or another condition, be honest about it. It may not only help you but also help end the stigma that so often causes silence.
- Lead with Empathy and Kindness
The language we use to speak about mental illness matters.
Words like “crazy” are damaging and disparaging, and they’re never helpful.
Moreover, a person isn’t “depressed,” nor are they “bipolar,” but they can have these conditions and these illnesses inform their experience of the world. Speaking this way is harmful — and often unkind — and usually reinforces negative stigma about health.
If you’re going to talk about mental health, use person-first language.
Person-first or person-centered language sees the person first and considers their illness or health as something that is part of their identity but doesn’t dominate it.
- Learn More
Everyone has more to learn about mental illness, and education is a vital part of mental illness awareness.
To do your part, you need to find reputable sources that offer the best available information. Some of the best resources come from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and its affiliates and programs.
Your education isn’t to make you an armchair psychologist or recommend mental health treatment programs.
Instead, it’s to enable you to help end stigma both in your own life and the broader world by learning what mental health is and how to talk about it.
Mental Illness Awareness Starts with You
Raising mental illness awareness is critical because one in five of us will struggle with poor mental health at some point.
However, you don’t need to be an activist or hold a fundraiser to spread awareness. (Though, those things are great, too.) Instead, change starts with you and your willingness to educate yourself, learn, and share your experiences with others.
Mental health is a lifelong conversation that we can all benefit from.
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