It's Time To Talk About Mental Health
Recently, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles revealed she was struggling with mental health issues that ultimately prevented her from competing in some Olympic events. Her courage in going public with these issues has been widely applauded, and has helped to reduce the stigma that often surrounds mental illness in our society.
Whether you're aware of it or not, you probably know someone with a mental illness. Chances are, you know more than one person who is struggling. Statistics show that 1 in 5 adults has a mental illness. Yet, even though 20% of the population is struggling, there remains a tremendous stigma associated with getting a diagnosis, seeking help, and even taking medication.
Reasons For Mental Health Stigma
People might carry be stigmatized for religious reasons, cultural reasons, generational reasons, or simply a lack of education about mental illnesses and what they entail.
In previous generations, people had less awareness of mental health and often viewed therapy as controversial, meant only to be discussed in hush-hush tones or as fuel for gossip. But even with the advent of the internet and an amazing amount of information available about mental illness, it remains a topic that is off-limits for many people.
With so many barriers, untruths, and stigma surrounding the conversation about mental health, what can we do to change it?
Talking About Mental Health Reduces The Stigma
The first step for opening a dialogue about mental health is to talk about it openly, as Simone Biles did. Acknowledging your difficulties to family and friends is an important way to not only seek their support, but to reduce the amount of misunderstanding about mental illness.
One way to open the conversation is by telling someone how you're feeling and what you're struggling with specifically. While it can be awkward or even embarrassing to open up about a topic that is so personal, it is very helpful not to go through it alone. Having the support of friends and family can help you through the process of recovering from mental illness.
Don't Be Ashamed to Ask For Help For Your Mental Health
Talking about mental health topics as if they are a forbidden topic only adds to the stigma surrounding them. While you may have to be selective in who you select to talk to about your deepest struggles, this doesn't mean that mental health challenges can't be included in everyday conversation. It may be easier to start the conversation by talking about celebrities or athletes - like Simone Biles, Chrissy Teigen, Demi Lovato, and others - as a way to open the subject.
Help Others With Mental Health Challenges
If someone opens up to you about their mental health struggles, the most important thing you can do is to listen to them and to validate their feelings. You also can ask how you can help. Everyone's needs are different, and what is helpful to you might not be nearly as helpful to someone else. There are many resources available in our community to help someone who is struggling with mental illness or addiction.
While friends are important to have during the darkest times, sometimes a doctor or a mental health professional needs to be involved. You can contact Clay Behavioral Health Center around the clock at 904.291.5561 for help, or make sure your friend has information about how to reach out to a mental health professional.
Educate Yourself and Others About Mental Illness
If your friend says that they are struggling with something that you are not familiar with, you can refer them to a mental health professional or visit a reputable online source for more information. Make sure that the information is from an accurate and trusted source, and keep in mind that even people with the same mental illness have their own unique struggles and experiences, and everyone is affected a little bit differently.
While you shouldn't turn the struggles of others into conversation topics with other people, if you hear something said about mental health that doesn't sound quite right, don't be afraid to speak up.
Talking about mental health can be a difficult topic, but it is incredibly important. We can't erase the stigma surrounding mental health by carrying stigma ourselves.