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Breaking the stigma

“Men can not cry, depression is a phase, crying is just for the weak”. We are a society of new technology, cars that drive themselves and virtual reality, but we lack the awareness and normalization of mental health. What we fail to understand is that men are just as humane as women, mental health is not a phase but a valid feeling and crying is the sign of staying strong for too long not a weakness. Our society has been the generation of change and the next step is to break the negative stigma surrounding mental health

Unfortunately, mental health does not only encompass struggling with your own thoughts and self-judgements but also includes the prejudice and stereotypes you face when you discuss your mental health. People with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life including good jobs, safe housing, and even satisfactory health care. Research has shown that 1 in 5 individuals who suffer from mental health are denied health care and about 700 individuals in a survey done in 2017 confessed to not being hired because of their mental health. Stigma is seen through two ways- public stigma and self stigma. Public stigma is the reaction that the general population has to people with mental illness such as people assuming anyone with a mental disorder is “violent”.Self-stigma is the prejudice which people with mental illness turn against themselves. Research has shown that Westernized cultures use media(such as films) to foster this stigma through portraying people with mental illness as  homicidal maniacs who need to be feared, having childlike perceptions of the world that should be marveled, or being  responsible for their illness because they have weak character.

It is evident that some sort of change needs to take place so here are a few ways to help. The main ways to help can be broken down into protest, educate and contact. Groups protest inaccurate and hostile representations of mental illness as a way to challenge the stigmas they represent. This forces the media to stop portraying inaccurate information about mental health and forces people to stop believing those inaccurate representations.  Education provides information so that the public can become more informed about mental illness. Education has proven the most effective in research because it does not foster any negativity and it has shown that people who evince a better understanding of mental illness are less likely to endorse stigma and discrimination. Education can be done through social media, talking with your own family and friends, doing surveys and research, and publishing blogs or podcasts surrounding this topic. Lastly, seeing a successful individual who has overcame their mental health barriers can create a breakthrough in those stigmas. Research has shown an inverse relationship between having contact with a person with mental illness and endorsing psychiatric stigma. This means the opportunities for the public to meet people with severe mental illness may discount stigma

How can you break the stigma if you are struggling with mental health? Research has shown 43.8 million Americans suffer from a form of mental illness either as small as sadness or as big as severe depression. The first step is to get help, don’t let the fear of being labeled with a problem or being judged stop you from getting treatment. Psychologists and psychristarist are there to help you, not to judge you. Know that you are not alone in this process because there are people in your life that wants you to have the brightest of smiles and will be by your side till you achieve that. Secondly, don’t isolate yourself. Never feel as though you are a burden to family or friends around you. Reach out to people you trust and love and they will help you along this journey . Lastly remember that you are not your illness. You have so many other amazing traits besides having a mental health disorder so instead of saying “ I am depressed” say “I have depression”, don’t let your it define you.

How can you help break the stigma in your everyday life? Social media can have a huge say in people’s lives. You may feel as though one post cant change much but it can be a savior in someone’s darkness. So always post positive, uplifting information, let you friends and loved ones know that you are there for them and raise awareness about normalizing mental health. September 6th- septemeber 12th is suicide prevention week so make sure to look for any signs of change/ abnormal activities in your loved ones and take this opportunity to destigmatize mental health. Be careful of the way you phrase things because you can have good intentions but make it sound hurtful. Make sure to not address individuals with mental illnesses as “nuts”, “psychos ”, “disturbed”, “crazy” , “weird”, “odd”, “problematic” and/ or “insane” . Lastly, do an act of kindness such as complimenting someone, buying a homeless person food, paying for someone’s order, buying your friends or loved ones flowers, and etc. Tell those individuals to pass down the kindness and from one action you can create a chain of smiles and positivity.

It is never too late to foster change and those changes are only a fingertip away so go and compliment someone right now and start the chain of kindness. 

Suicide prevention hotline- 1-800-273-8255

-Armita Nahavandi 

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