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Fight the Mental Health Stigma

If you have a mental illness, you know that stigma is one of the most challenging aspects of living with that condition. Even though society has significantly progressed when it comes to mental health, there is still a widespread negative attitude towards these illnesses. Many people don’t see mental issues as a serious problem, but rather as personal weakness, selfishness or laziness. Mental illnesses should be treated as seriously as physical illness because the stigma creates feelings of shame, blame and hopelessness.

Here are a few ways you can fight the mental health stigma:

Know how to tell your story

You know your story best, so you should share it with others. Describe the exact thoughts or feelings that make you feel sad or anxious. Telling the story as a narrative, rather than with the expectation of understanding, is most effective. The other person can’t disagree. It’s your story.

Don’t take comments too personally

If someone says something insensitive or ignorant about mental illness, the worst thing you can do is defensively react. Defensive responses empower the other person’s words. Being defensive suggests that you are threatened by the response, which ultimately suggests there is truth in it. As you get more defensive, the other person will become more confident and continue to say things to upset you.

Use science

Talking in neurobiological terms is the best way to directly and clearly speak about the nature of your mental illness. Scientific terms not only shows that you’re smart and helps you sound convincing, but they’ll take the other person off-guard. Discussing the sections of the brain affected by depression or anxiety is a great way to stop a nay-sayer.

Talk about genetics

Remind yourself and others of the genetics of mood disorders. There are specific genes that predispose people to depression and anxiety. Specific chromosomes are often found in people with bipolar and depressive disorder.

Use statistics

It might feel strange to use statistics, but if it’s going to get your point across, use them. Here are a few useful statistics:

  • One million people die from suicide around the globe. Over 30,000 suffer from depression.
  • Suicide takes more lives than traffics accidents
  • Depression is a leading cause for disability in the U.S.
  • 90 percent of people won’t get adequate treatment