Many people living with mental illness often experience negative attitudes, feelings or behaviors from others or themselves because of their mental health condition. Many people with mental illness feel that the stigma they experience is worse than the condition itself, and stigma often prevents them from seeking the help they need.[i] One way that we call all help end the stigma is to keep talking about mental health and support each other. Ending the stigma around mental illness might seem like a big task, but there are many simple things we can do to address stigma in our daily lives. In honour of Bell Let’s Talk Month, we want to help you find the tools to be a better ally and keep the conversation around mental health going.
Here are four ways you can take a stand against stigma:
Becoming an ‘ally’ (or supporter/trusted friend) to someone living with a mental illness means paying attention to the words that you use and making sure you do not use language that could be damaging or make someone feel unsafe. It can make all the difference if you are able to demonstrate an understanding of what they are going through. So do your research! Learn more about different mental illnesses and how they might be impacting your loved ones, and even yourself. Then, when you show up to the conversation you will be better prepared with the tools necessary to be a supportive friend or family member. Learning more about mental illness may also help you to build empathy and understanding for your own experiences.
If you are looking for a place to start, visit the Bell Let’s Talk Toolkit to access resources and helpful tips.
Start the Conversation
Sometimes, it can be hard to start the conversation around mental health. Thanks to initiatives like #BellLetsTalk Day, more people are feeling comfortable talking about their #mentalhealth. For generations, many lived in silence out of fear of making others uncomfortable or the stigma they faced admitting that they were not ok. Today, two out of three people still suffer in silence.[ii]
WE have the power to change this by starting the conversation.
Tips for starting the conversation:
- Mention an article that you have read recently
- If you feel comfortable, discuss your own experiences with your mental health
- Ask your friends and family members how they have been doing
Being an active listener is a great way to show someone that you are an ally. You can help your loved ones know that you are there to listen by asking questions and paying attention when they open up about how they are feeling. By being a good listener, you can help others feel more comfortable talking about mental health. Not only does this help address stigma, but it also may encourage others to ask for help when they need it the most.
Not everyone is aware of their stigmatizing behaviours. If you notice that someone in your life is saying or doing things that might be harmful towards others living with mental illness, try addressing their behaviour by asking questions or encouraging them to learn more. By doing this, you might help change their mindset and prevent them from continuing those behaviours.
When it comes to addressing the stigma around mental illness, we all have an important role to play. Small changes, like taking some time to learn more, or actively starting conversations around mental health, can make a significant impact on your community, your loved ones, and even for yourself! Just like good physical health is important for us all, we all deserve good mental health. If we all pull together to end stigma by talking, listening, learning, and supporting more people who need the help will feel more comfortable reaching out. We encourage you to partake in ongoing conversations around mental health, not only during Bell Let’s Talk Month but always. As you continue to have these conversations, remember that the Strongest Families Institute is here for you. We will keep listening and keep being there when you need us the most.
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Tags: Bell Let's Talk, e-mental health, free mental health program, Strongest Families Institute