Let others know that there is hope and understanding. You can change the way the world sees mental health.
The need to eliminate stigma is nothing new. Fifteen years ago, a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health—the first and only one to date—identified stigma as a public health concern that leads peoples to “avoid living, socializing or working with, renting to, or employing” individuals with mental illness. Thanks to stigma, people living with mental health conditions are:
- Alienated and seen as “others.”
- Perceived as dangerous.
- Seen as irresponsible or unable to make their own decisions.
- Less likely to be hired.
- Less likely to get safe housing.
- More likely to be criminalized than offered health care services.
- Afraid of rejection to the point that they don’t always pursue opportunities.
Many people living with mental health conditions don’t feel comfortable talking to their friends and family about what they’re dealing with. Those living with a mental health condition don’t want it any more than a person would want a broken leg. But focused thought and effort can’t make depression go away, just as focusing on healing won’t fix a shattered bone.
Even worse, individuals living with mental illness often internalize the stigma that exists in our culture, damaging hopes for recovery. Some don’t seek treatment from a mental health professional. Their conditions worsen because they aren’t receiving the support and care they need to recover. And too often people take their own lives because they aren’t told by anyone that they’re not alone, they can recover and there is hope.
To change this harmful status quo, NAMI is asking everyone to take our StigmaFree Pledge. Building a movement for change will require commitments from individuals, businesses, organizations, campuses and churches, as well as others.
Once you’ve taken the pledge, consider all the ways you can live StigmaFree in your daily life. Maybe you can begin by being aware of the language you use or by choosing to be open or by deciding to learn more about mental illness.
Every day brings new hope. Every day, we have an opportunity to help create broader understanding of mental health, overcome stereotypes and break down barriers. We can all do a little bit more each day to eliminate stigma and replace it with help and hope.
So, help NAMI spread the word. Take the StigmaFree pledge and encourage your family and friends to do the same. This initiative, this movement is our attempt to reverse the harmful effects of stigma. So, when you hear someone using stigmatizing language, correct them. If you see someone using misleading stereotypes, educate them. And never forget to see people for who they are, not for how they act during their darkest days.
Together, we will turn the tide on stigma by spreading awareness, support and understanding for every person who experiences mental illness. Together, we can make a difference for the better.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Greenville, South Carolina is a non-profit, grass-roots organization offering support, education, and advocacy for those living with mental health conditions and their families.