It might not be uncommon to encounter someone diagnosed with a mental health condition or experiencing mental health struggles throughout your day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 Americans will experience mental health concerns within the given year, and 1 in 25 Americans has a chronic mental health illness. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the population's mental health, making it difficult for society to ignore mental health struggles. So, why is it so difficult to talk about mental health?
Historically, mental health has often been stigmatized. The stigma around mental health refers to the negative attitudes and beliefs often associated with mental health conditions. It can manifest in many ways, including discrimination, prejudice, and misunderstanding. Representation of mental health in the media and social media is also a contributing factor in misinformation. One of the main reasons for the stigma around mental health is a lack of understanding and proper education. There is often a misunderstanding that mental health conditions are a personal weakness rather than a result of a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors.
Changing the narrative on mental health conversations involves shifting the way we talk about and think about mental health from a negative or stigmatizing perspective to a more positive and understanding one.
How can we change the narrative and normalize discussions about mental health?
1. Educating and learning about mental health
Finding reliable sources can help increase your understanding of mental health illnesses and how it affects individuals at every level. Positively utilizing social media to reach the masses and share information from those reliable sources.
2. Using language that promotes understanding, empathy, and inclusion
Using mindful language can help create a culture where mental health is openly discussed and addressed. Using person-first language, such as "a person with depression" rather than "a depressed person," can help to destigmatize mental illness and emphasize that the person is more than their diagnosis. Words also have the power to shape the narrative around mental health. By using language that promotes understanding, empathy, and inclusion, we can help to create a culture where mental health is openly discussed and addressed. Being mindful as well that different cultures and communities may experience and understand mental health differently, shifting the way we talk about and think about mental health from a negative or stigmatizing perspective to a more positive and understanding one.
3. Initiating the conversation
Some people may feel afraid of being judged or misunderstood if they talk about their mental health, which can prevent them from seeking help or talking about their experiences. It takes courage to go against the norm and go against personal fears. It takes one person to spark the conversation and to take the leap of faith, that is, sharing personal experiences; it can influence others to feel more comfortable having conversations on mental health.
Learning how to listen to others is equally as important when having discussions. It demonstrates one’s willingness to learn from others and support those going through a difficult time.
Let's contribute to continuing to change the way we talk about mental health towards one of acceptance, understanding, and support, with a focus on destigmatizing mental health and encouraging open and honest conversations. Let's be part of a community that contributes to normalizing discussions on mental health and creating a space in which there is less fear of judgment.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, know that resources are available to help. Reach out to a mental health professional, a helpline, or a support group.
These are some additional resources below that can help in learning more about mental health and start a conversation;
Information on mental health:
Understanding and addressing negative stigma:
Starting the conversation:
By: Carolay Ceballos
Mental Health Counseling Intern