BUILD YOUR UNDERSTANDING
Stigma is strong and prevalent surrounding mental illnesses. From surveys, it has been gathered that 15% of people label people with mental illnesses as a “burden to society,” and 18% of people disagree with the statement that people with mental illnesses are less dangerous than generally supposed. However, people struggling will mental illness are actually more likely to be victims of crimes than the perpetrators. 81% of people believe they are not informed to being only slightly informed on mental illness (Stigma). The amount of uninformed people on mental illness makes it hard for those suffering to reach out and get the help they need.
To eliminate stigma, and make people aware of the existing stigmas and to inform them can make the bridge to recovery easier and even encourage more people to reach out.
WHAT IT’S LIKE
The first step to combatting this stigma is understanding. To be able to empathize and help, you have to understand what mental illnesses are. The Family Toolkit from Here to Help states that mental disorders are “a range of specific conditions which affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, actions and mental functioning,” and that “these disorders are associated with significant distress and may result in a diminished ability to cope with daily life over an extended period of time.” The video below is of 13 people, ages 18-25, who talk about what it’s like to live with a mental illness (Familytoolkit).
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
When a loved one suffers from a mental illness, it can affect your life, particularly if you live with this person or engage with them on a daily basis. It can be emotionally tasking to know someone you care for is suffering. It’s important to understand that you are not to blame for the mental illness your loved one is facing, and that negative reactions such as shame or hurt are not uncommon. However, instead of holding onto these negative emotions, it is important to take care of your own mental wellbeing and the other relationships you have: The American Psychology Association says that “clear, honest communication is crucial for all family members. For example, don’t be afraid to ask [your family members] how they feel about the changes to the family. Keeping a line of communication open will help things go more smoothly — both at the time of a new diagnosis, and well into the future” (Psychology).
Secondly, beyond your own wellbeing, loved ones can play a crucial role in the healing of their loved ones. Without support, the disorder can go untreated, or recovery can be harder and prolonged because of the lack of acceptance or support the person is receiving. Family members truly can make a difference in their loved ones recovery.
HELP YOUR LOVED ONE
WHAT YOU CAN DO
First thing’s first: have the conversation. Making it clear you genuinely want to know how someone is doing and asking how they are and if they want to talk can make it easier and offer a gateway for them to open up (Supporting).
It’s important to remember that you do not “cure” mental illness, but you can recover from it. Recovery from a mental illness means “ learning to successfully manage a disorder, having control over symptoms and having a quality of life,” and that it is “less about returning to a former state than about realizing the potential person you can become” (Familytoolkit).
Encourage them to visit a health professional, whether that be a school counselor, a psychologist, or their normal doctor (who can help them find the right person to get help from). These people will work with them to develop a treatment plan. You can help them to stick to their treatment plans, encourage them through it, and get to understand their experience with their condition (Familytoolkit).
Keep in mind that mental illnesses vary greatly from each other, and the help needed differs for each. Becoming informed on their specific disorder can help guide you in the right direction for how you can help. You can always consult their health professional as well, and ask what they think are the best ways for you to help, as well as directly asking what it is your loved one likes or doesn’t like that you can do to try and help.
INFOGRAPHICS & RESOURCES
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT:
PADLET… TO FOSTER YOUR OWN IDEAS OF CHANGE!
To end stigma, we can all be supporters. How can you help others in your community learn the information in this project?
Active Minds is a nonprofit organization which aims to support mental health awareness and education for students. They have a chapter network made up of over 450 chapters, and while most are on college campuses, my high school is one of these chapters. These chapters serve as “passionate advocates, stigma fighters, and educators for mental health.” My school’s chapter often meets during our club periods.
“FamilyToolKit.” Here to Help, HeretoHelp, 2015, www.heretohelp.bc.ca/workbook/family-toolkit. Accessed 2019.
Glynn, Shirley M., et al. “How to Cope When a Loved One Has a Serious Mental Illness.”
American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/helpcenter/serious-mental-illness. Accessed 2019.
“Psychology Help Center.” American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/helpcenter/index. Accessed 2019.
“The Stigma of Mental Illness.” Mental Health: An American Addictions Centers Recourse, Recovery Brands, www.mentalhelp.net/aware/the-stigma-of-mental-illness/. Accessed 2019.
“Supporting Someone.” Beyond Blue, www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/supporting-someone. Accessed 2019.