How can we make the world a place where everyone feels comfortable opening themselves up about their mental health? To support mental health is one small step each of us can take to help end its stigma and allow those who need help to ask for it. The prevailing adage, “It’s okay not to be okay,” is wonderful in theory, but there are still millions of people around the world who struggle in silence. Many individuals who suffer from poor mental health turn to substance abuse to dull their ache. By supporting mental health, we can also encourage sobriety in others.
Understanding Comes First
Understanding that their circumstance is not a personal flaw is a major hurdle to overcome for those suffering from a mental health disorder. However, when the world around them makes them feel as they are an outlier to the norm, taking the next step to seek help becomes that much more difficult. The overall general lack of education about mental health, difficult living arrangements, or absence of social support can keep individuals trapped in a painful cycle.
Changing the conversation around mental health means moving beyond platitudes and sympathy. It is about creating a new framework for the way we see people with mental illness. Although we are lucky enough to live in a time where people are more forthcoming than ever about their struggles, being able to discuss openly mental health is still largely a privilege.
This means people in communities with more significant stigmas about mental health might still be unheard of. Those living in areas with little to no mental health resources are left to suffer alone. And people who are surrounded by others who do not understand their symptoms, conditions or are burdened by their own psychological problems face either being honest and suffering the consequences or carrying their pain alone.
How to Support Mental Health
It may not feel like there is a lot a single person can do to end the mental health stigma at an individual level. But fortunately, there are many ways to help. As with most challenges, the first step is to become educated about the problems faced by individuals who have a mental illness.
You can learn about different types of mental illnesses, common symptoms, and how they impact people. It can help read articles or watch videos of people with similar challenges so you can personalize them more. As you learn more, you will begin to see beyond mental illness in its clinical form and more about how mental illness is a part of a person’s life.
Sharing blog posts, articles, and helpful information from websites like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can allow people to educate themselves with trusted resources. Sometimes, mental health is easier to digest when you are learning about it on your own. Conversations can quickly become heated, so extending a hand and letting someone access resources on their own terms is beneficial. It can gradually help ease some of the tension surrounding conceptions about mental health.
Listen to Others
Ask someone you know how they are really doing. We often ask, “How are you?” without ever listening or even caring about whether the person is telling the truth. Discussing one’s mental health more openly with the right people can also create a safe space that inspires others to address their feelings. Be aware everyone experiences life differently. Just because someone doesn’t immediately open up doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the gesture.
Asking open questions is another good way to integrate a healthier perspective about mental wellness into everyday life. Rather than simply waiting for people to say they have a problem, ask how something makes them feel or what they think about their current mood. Rumination often leads people down dark, endless tunnels of thoughts they can’t get out of. Asking the right questions about mental health allows them to break free from their own ideas and understand themselves better.
Avoid Stigmatizing Terminology to Support Mental Health
There are many words in our everyday vocabulary that unintentionally stereotype people with mental health problems. For example, saying someone is “so OCD” about having your bed made every day grossly dismisses the severity of the obsessive-compulsive disorder. Perfectionism and OCD are not the same. On the same note, it is damaging to label feelings of sadness as “depression” or calling someone who is struggling an attention-seeker. Language is a powerful force many inadvertently wield without caution.
Making a Difference to Support Mental Health
You might not be able to change the world, but you don’t have to. Making a difference by addressing your own mental health or a loved one can help you be better equipped to assist others. Become more mindful of how you speak, learn as much as you can about mental illness, and lead a positive example of self-care and advocacy. By doing this, you can be a part of the movement that reshapes how society sees and defines people living with mental illness.
You can begin your journey today and increase your knowledge about mental illness by contacting Ocean Hills Recovery. We understand the importance of treating mental health alongside addiction. By treating both together with dual diagnosis, we can foster the mental health and healing you or a loved one needs.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.