Mental Health Awareness Month: Stop the Stigma
By Karlee Paradis
Stigma. A product of continued negative and harmful stereotypes believed to be true, a theme that we see all too often. In supporting the fight to prevent suicide, dismantling the stigma surrounding mental illness is incredibly important. The unfortunate reality is that many people have been and are reluctant toseek help or reach out to friends when struggling with their mental health due to the stigma surrounding mental health, often fearing facing judgement at their most vulnerable. So many judgements and preconceived notions though come from a lack of understanding, a lack of understanding that can be rectified by rewriting the narrative surrounding mental health and mental illness by speaking out against the stigma. We can start by educating our friends, family, colleagues, and peers by speaking up and against negative judgements and stereotypes surrounding mental health. Speaking up and speaking out not only educates others but it also sends the message to the world around us that no one is alone. Perhaps a friend is considering seeking help but is afraid because of the stigma, hearing you speak out against the stigma could give them the courage they need to reach out.
Another way to fight the stigma is for those who are comfortable to share their own story of navigating mental health. This too shows others that they are not alone, and that there is no shame in struggling with one’s mental health! Fostering an environment where we can and do talk about mental health openly and respectfully not only normalizes talking about mental health but can help remove the negative stigma surrounding mental health.
Sometimes too, judgements and stereotypes about mental health may come from within. As we strive to spread kindness to others and to our communities, we need to remember to be kind to ourselves. For those of you who may be feeling shame, or self-doubt, or insecurities related to your mental health, hear the message that your struggles do not make you weak, they do not make you less than, and they do not make you unworthy of love and acceptance. Your struggles do not define who you are. Try and remember in the tougher seasons of life, to be patient and kind with yourself in these moments of internalized judgement. And in the moments it’s difficult to climb out from underneath the internalized judgement, don’t shut out your people, lean on your support systems. This mental health awareness month we are reminded that there is so much work yet to be done to fight the stigma surrounding mental health, work that we can all contribute to by speaking out and reaching out about mental health. If you or someone you know is in a crisis the following services are available: 24/7 Crisis Hotline: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (Veterans, press 1) Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line Send a text to 838255 Vets4Warriors.com SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline (Substance Abuse) 1-800-662-HELP (4357) RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474 The Trevor Project 1-866-488-7386 Trans Lifeline 877-565-8860 Beginning July 16, 2022, across the United States individuals will be able to dial simply 988 to be routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For more information about the fight to end suicide and mental health stigma please visit www.afsp.org