Reducing the stigma of mental illness

Young people standing

It’s a very positive development that over the last few years mental health has been discussed far more openly. It is being talked and written about more in the media, and among families, friends and colleagues. The more we talk about mental health, the more we can understand how the issues around it affects us and those around us.

Yet sadly there is still a stigma around mental health – and it is still not treated with the same parity as physical health, despite it being just as important. It is vital that, both as organisations, individuals and as a wider community, we do all we can to end the stigma of mental illness.

At The Children’s Society’s we provide one to one and group support to young people who are experiencing issues with their mental health and well-being. We also work to raise awareness of mental health issues among young people, and make sure they know where they can get support.

But outside of our professional work, we are aware that as individuals and communities we can all take steps to reduce mental health stigma too. So if you want to get involved in reducing the stigma of mental health yourself, there are three main areas where you can have an impact: education, awareness and behaviour.

Education

The more you can encourage people to understand the issues around it, the more you can dispel the stigma associated with mental illness. People need to understand that mental health affects everyone in both a positive and negative fashion – and it affects each person differently. Often the stigma around mental illness is caused by a lack of understanding, so sharing facts around mental health can a key part in improving knowledge and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

Awareness

By knowing some of the signs of mental illness, you will be able to spot when friends or colleagues may be experiencing problems with their mental health. Getting people the help they need as quickly as possible can stop issues escalating, and potentially save lives. If you know anyone who is:

  • Looking anxious or worried
  • Having emotional outbursts
  • Complaining of sleep problems
  • Suddenly changing their behaviour
  • Drinking a lot or more than usual
  • Unusually quiet or withdrawn

Then make sure ask them if they’re ok and if there’s anything you can do to help. You may also want to alert someone appropriate in your organisation or community such as a healthcare professional or counsellor.

Behaviour

Your behaviour can play a significant part in reducing the stigma of mental illness. If someone comes to you to talk about their mental health issues, then make sure you are open, receptive and non-judgemental. You should do your very best to stop a person feeling awkward or as if you’re not interested in talking about their mental health with them. Make sure the person your talking to knows that their mental health problems aren’t what defines them, and that help and support are available.

By following the steps above, together we can help take the stigma out of discussing mental health and mental health issues.