In our modern society, you think we would be beyond having stigma surrounding mental disorders. Yet there are so many people who don’t understand what mental illnesses are and how they affect people. Because of the media, personal experiences, and lack of education about it, people have a skewed perception of mental illnesses. If you want to be able to bust the stigma surrounding mental disorders, here are a few steps you can take to try to understand it better.
1. Take a Walk in Their Shoes
The easiest way to bust the stigma surrounding mental disorders is to try and view someone’s disorder from their point of view. Think about how scary it must be that their mind is one of their worst enemies. Only once you start to show empathy for people with mental illnesses can you begin to bust the stigma surrounding them.
2. Acknowledge It’s a Real Problem
For such a long time, I didn’t understand the concept of depression or anxiety. Why couldn’t these people just be happy or relax? It took me a while to realize that these people have no control over their mental illness. Mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, not because people just want to act that way.
3. Realize How Common It is
Chances are, you know someone who is suffering from a mental illness. It can be something as common as depression or as sever as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. According to the NIH, 26.2% of Americans over 18 suffer from a diagnosed mental disorder. That is about ¼ of the population. It is not some rare thing that happens once in a blue moon. Knowing how common mental illness is can help you to understand that people suffering from one are not that different from you.
4. Know the Symptoms
If you learn about the symptoms of a variety of mental disorders, you can recognize and understand the illness better. If you know that a panic attack is a symptom of having severe anxiety, you might be able to better react if someone experiences one around you. It can also help to bust myths around certain disorders. Most people assume that all schizophrenics hear voices in their head or see hallucinations, but that is only a small percentage of symptoms. They can experience a variety of less severe symptoms such as flat affect or lack of emotion, trouble focusing, or problems with their memory.
5. Don’t Make Assumptions or Judgments
Don’t assume that someone suffering from bipolar disorder is automatically “crazy” or judge someone when they experience a lot of anxiety. Being judgment-free when dealing with mental illness is a key part in busting the stigma surrounding mental disorders. You would never want to be judged for the things you do, so why would you ever dream of judging a person for something they cannot control?
6. Don’t Trust Television Depictions
With shows and movies depicting mental illness, it is no wonder that this country has a stigma surrounding mental disorders. Schizophrenics are seen as dangerous and paranoid. People with depression are seen as completely anti-social. These depictions are widely inaccurate and should not be trusted as actual medical information. Trust real world experience or do your research to get an accurate view of suffering from a mental illness is like.
7. Speak up
Now that you know the ways to bust mental illness stigmas, go out there and share your knowledge with others. It is great if individuals take their personal time to learn about mental illness, but it would be even better if people spoke up to their friends and family. If you hear someone making a comment against mental illness, speak up against it. It is up to us to share our knowledge and bust mental disorder stigmas once and for all.
Mental disorders are not something easy to understand. And because of that, we place such a heavy stigma around them. What did you think of these steps to help bust the stigma surrounding mental disorders? What are some other ways you can help bust this stigma? Why do you think we place such a heavy stigma around mental disorders?