Breaking the Stigma
Kyle Haney, Ph.D., Staff Psychologist
Since 1949, May has been designated Mental Health Awareness Month by Mental Health America and other related organizations. Whether you struggle with depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, or other mental health issues, daily life can be daunting. However, the stigma surrounding mental health may cause additional pain for those struggling in their lives. Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)a estimate that one in five Americans is adversely affected by stigma toward their mental health conditions. So what can you do to find support or flip the script?
How to find support:
Get connected with support groups – Groups offered through the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)c are various support groups with locations across the US to speak with others that are also struggling with any of a number of mental health conditions.
Seek therapy with a trusted mental health provider – Sometimes it is difficult to get validation and support from family or friends because they have minimal understanding of the difficulties one is going through. It can be helpful to seek support from a therapist who can validate and understand the struggles one might be experiencing. Through this relationship, an individual can feel less stigma and make progress in their mental health treatment.
Transform suffering into meaning – Some individuals find their own advocacy work as helpful to reducing stigma and developing a sense of meaning in their pain. Volunteering through organizations like ADAA or Mental Health America (MHA)b to become a peer support.
How to get involved:
Take the Stigmafree pledge – Sign the online campaign with NAMI to promote the movement to replace stigma with hope across the US.
Help educate – Attend or promote groups like NAMI Family and Friends, or Family Connectionse that provide classes for parents, guardians, friends, or other caregivers about ways to support those with mental health conditions. Or perhaps watching webinars produced by MHA or different mental health issues.
Become an advocate – Many organizations like Mental Health America seek support from volunteer advocates to speak to local congressman and other policy makers in their counties and states to promote policy changes in mental health treatment.
Participate in a walk – Frequently in May, though in different times of the year, organizations like NAMI hold walks to advocate for reducing mental health stigma and raising money and awareness towards more effective mental health treatment.