During Mental Health Awareness Month, there’s a lot of talk about shrinking the stigma. While it might look different than it used to, the stigma surrounding mental health is alive and well. While many would agree on how important it is to shrink the stigma, it’s easier said than done. Shrinking the stigma isn’t only in our words; it’s in our actions. So, what does it actually look like to shrink the stigma, and how can we contribute?
When we talk about shrinking the stigma, it’s often in the form of a result. In my head, I think of the stigma as a circle, one I want to get smaller and smaller until I can hardly see it. However, we can often focus so much on the result that we don’t think about the process. We KNOW we want the stigma to shrink – but how does that happen?
How Do We Shrink the Stigma?
There are plenty of ways we can shrink the stigma around mental health. But the reason I’m not writing an exhaustive list right now (though that might be a nice idea for a future post, wouldn’t it?) is because it’s not as simple as knowing what to do. For me, one of the most important things to understand about these actions is why we do them. And in a lot of ways, the why is usually the problem.
There are many good things about the way we approach mental health as a society. The way we’ve grown in treating mental illness and accepting mental health challenges is encouraging. But a prevailing notion still exists that mental illness is something to get rid of. Not only that, but we need to get rid of it as soon as humanly possible. We take a linear approach to mental health that requires a finish line. This approach might help some, but it also puts mental health in a box that it doesn’t deserve to be in.
To shrink the stigma, we need to accept the fact that mental health challenges are part of every-day life. There might be people who are more susceptible to mental illness, but mental health is for everyone. It’s not a fad or a trending topic – it’s here to stay whether we like it or not. The awareness-raising in recent decades has been wonderful to see, but we have so much further to go.
Changing Our Approach
Back to my original question, then. What does it look like to shrink the stigma? It starts with our approach to mental health. Everyone has mental health; to act otherwise would not only be incorrect, but a detriment to our health. But to be more accepting of mental health challenges also means to let people be open in their struggle.
We can’t accept mental illness only when it’s convenient for us, and dismiss when it’s a nuisance. Doing so maintains the status quo and does nothing to shrink the stigma. Nothing will change if we do nothing to change it. Shrinking the stigma means accepting that mental health is a natural part of life. It should be – and must be – treated as such. It starts with us, and it starts now. How will you join in?
During Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s important to share resources and information with each other. That’s why I want to hear from you! What is one thing people can do that would help shrink the stigma around mental health? Share your thoughts in the comments – I’d love to connect!