What do you need to know?
While mental health is slowly becoming more normalized, our society has a LONG way to go until the stigma surrounding mental health and prioritizing oneself is eliminated. Specifically, the stigma surrounding mental health in regards to children is and can be detrimental. Without starting the conversation of mental health at an early age and providing children with the adequate and appropriate resources and coping skills to take care of themselves, they are going to continue to suffer. This past year has been difficult on everyone, from the pandemic, to the current events, to the isolation of online school, many have had difficulty coping. Whilst I am a high school student and have the privilege of being more educated on mental health issues, I feel as if younger students lack the knowledge. After having a conversation with my 12 year old sister I learned that it is truly children who are struggling the most right now. It is crucial to provide children with coping mechanisms, extra support, and the understanding that is really is “okay to not be okay,” (as cliche as it is).
The HARMFUL Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
When it comes to mental health, there has always appeared to be a stigma surrounding it. Mental illness is always such a taboo topic. Typically, one is taught that they are “different” or “strange” for having to deal with a mental illness or struggling with their mental health. In fact the stigma has made it so over half of the people who have mental illnesses do not receive the proper help and support they need.
Three Types of Stigmas:
Public stigma: The negative connotations and perception that our society has surrounding mental illness.
Self-stigma: Internalized embarrassment or shame that one with a mental illness typically feels about their own illness, negative thoughts/perspective.
Institutional stigma: A systemic issue; society has typically limited the opportunities for those suffering with mental illnesses, this has isolated those suffering.
Surprisingly, research shows that by simply being in contact with or knowing someone who struggles with their mental health is one of the best ways to help reduce the stigma surrounding it. Just hearing the stories of those struggling and really understanding what it is like to struggle with one’s mental health is the first step to normalizing it. The more we talk about mental health the more “normal” it will feel to discuss topics that currently appear to be “scary.” We need to educate the youth and make mental health less of a “frightening” topic. A survey conducted in 2020 showed that 90 percent of 14 – 22 year olds experiencing symptoms of depression, ended up resorting to the internet as a source of information. Three out of Four of these young people stated that they were looking for personal anecdotes written by people who had previously experienced depression and were also suffering.
How Can We Reduce This Stigma?
Show Sympathy and Compassion – simply just showing those struggling that you care is a huge step in the right direction
Proper Representation in The Media – there needs to be more awareness surrounding mental health within the media in order to seriously continue the conversation surrounding it, stigmatizing language needs to be stopped
Be Open About Treatment – why is it that one is able to openly say that they are going to the hair salon, but when another person says they are going to therapy everyone stops and stares, mental health treatment NEEDS to be normalized
Educating Yourself and Those Around You – by simply understanding basic elements of mental illnesses and sharing those facts with those around you, this can help to tremendously reduce the stigma
Be Aware of Language – whilst you may not even be aware of it, some of the language used in ones everyday life can be harmful to those with a mental illness, so just think before you speak
What is PERMA?
Now, regarding positive psychology, PERMA is an acronym that stands for positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, accomplishments/achievements. Let’s break each one of these down:
Positive Emotion: This includes much more than simple happiness but joy, fulfillment, love, compassion etc. Positive emotions are a true indicator of how much one is able to flourish, increasing positive emotions can then lead to the strengthening of other sectors of one’s life.
Engagement: This is related to the concept of “Flow,” which is basically when one is so engaged in what they are doing that they are solely focused on that specific task. Happiness is just one of the many byproducts of being engaged and strengthening skills you enjoy.
Positive Relationships: Surrounding yourself around people who positively impact your life is crucial. One’s social environment plays a huge role in their happiness, mood, and overall personality. A relationship that is positive, loving, and supportive is one that will indeed benefit you in the long run.
Meaning: Having a sense of meaning/purpose plays into one feeling as if they belong and really do matter. People can find meaning through professions, political or social causes, religions etc. Those who have a sense of meaning end up having fewer health problems, greater satisfaction, and are overall just more content with their lives, as well as themselves.
Accomplishments/Achievements: A sense of accomplishment typically goes hand in hand with perseverance, and having the ability to set goals and achieve them. Feeling as if you are working towards something is a really great way to feel proud of yourself.
FUN Activities That Incorporate Positive Psychology and PERMA Into a Child’s Life
Games – chess, legos, checkers etc.
Spending time with family and friends
Going to the park/taking walks outdoors
Bike riding/riding a scooter
Going to local playground
Going to a museum (if possible)