Living Stigma Free

If you know someone who suffers from a mental illness, or experience a mental illness yourself, than you’re not alone. Research shows that almost 43 million people in the United States experience a mental illness – that means that about 1 in 5 people that you know and love experience some form of mental illness. But thanks to the stereotypes today’s media offers, mental illness is often misunderstood and those who suffer from it are stigmatized.

But despite the fact that 20% of Americans suffer from a mental illness, those that are experiencing the mental illness often don’t bring it up with their loved ones. In fact, research from The National Alliance on Mental Illness shows that only 41% of people with mental illness have looked for help to relive their symptoms. Why are less than half of those who suffer from an illness seeking treatment?

In their article Avoidance of Counseling: Psychological Factors That Inhibit Seeking Help, David Vogel and his associates found that counseling and therapy are often labeled ‘potentially difficult,’ ’embarrassing,’ and an ‘overall risky enterprise.’ So, even though it’s been proven that counseling can be a huge help in dealing with a mental illness, many people do not seek help from a mental professional because of stigmas against treatment for mental health.  They’re worried about what their friends and family may think about them if they seek help for their symptoms.

“Before they will seek counseling, individuals who have concerns about the counseling process may need additional information, support, or awareness of what the process is actually like,” Vogel wrote.

If you want to help end the humiliation that those with mental illness suffer from thanks to stereotypes and stigmas, check out these three simple steps.

Inform Yourself 

It’s easy to have misconceptions about a topic you don’t know much about. To combat the stigmas surrounding mental health, make it a point to educate yourself about mental illness and the lives of those who suffer from them. You’re reading this blog post, so you’re already doing great! The National Alliance on Mental Illness put together a list of their top eight favorite bloggers who talk about living with a mental illness. Check it out here!

There are also podcasts about mental illness. In a recent Letters to Women episode, Kaitlyn shared her story about what living with depression and anxiety looks like. She discussed medication, and how her faith helped her through dark times. Comedian Paul Gilmartin runs The Mental Illness Happy Hour, a great podcast that discusses mental illness, trauma, addiction and negative thinking. New episodes come out every week!

It’s important to note that even though blogs, testimonies from others, and podcasts are great resources, they are not substitutes for professional diagnosis or treatment.

Spread Awareness 

Once you have learned more about what mental illness actually is and what it looks like to live with it, share the information with those around you! Don’t be afraid to share a blog post on Facebook or bring the subject up in the next conversation you have with a friend. After all, if we never talk about mental illness, the stigmas and stereotypes surrounding the subject will just continue to be a problem.

If you struggle with a mental illness, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted friend. When you open up about your struggle, you may be surprised how many people around you are experiencing the same thing.

If someone in your life is dealing with a mental illness or you think they may be struggling with symptoms of a mental illness, bring up the subject with them in a gentle, respectful way. Don’t be afraid to ask how you can help them. A great resource for the conversation can be found at Bring Change to Mind. Their conversation guide talks about how to start the conversation, when to follow up with someone, and how to handle a situation when you think someone’s life may be in danger.

You may not have all of the answers, but you can be a listening ear to someone who is worried what others will think of them if they reveal where they’re hurting.

Support Those Experiencing Mental Illness 

If someone opens up to you about their mental illness, remember to see them as a person, not their mental illness. Also, recognize that mental illness are real medical illness, not something that’s just in someone’s head.

The National Alliance for Mental Illness provides a free 12 session educational program called Family-to-Family. It’s for family members, spouses, significant others, or friends of those suffering with a mental illness. Based on research and evidence, the program helps you put together strategies for taking care of those you love. But most importantly, the program helps you realize that you’re not alone, and that there is hope even in the face of the challenge of mental illness.

Resources

There are so many great resources out there for you or someone you know and love if you’re suffering from a mental illness. Check out these websites:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness 

Catholic Counselors through the Pastoral Solutions Institute. If you find yourself in a situation where there are no local Catholic counselors locally, the Pastoral Solutions Institute provides telephone counseling as well.

The Catholic Guide to Depression by Aaron Kheriaty

The National Association for Mental Illness

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

It is going to take awhile to reverse the stigma that surrounds mental health. But you can make a big difference in the life of someone suffering from a mental illness if you reach out to them and let them know that you see them and that you care.

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