- What is Mental Health Month?
- Mental Health vs. Mental Illness
- Stigma Around Mental Health
- Destigmatize Mental Health
- Treatments and Help
- Final Thoughts
What is Mental Health Month?
Mental Health America has associated May with mental health month since 1949. The point of this is to raise awareness about mental health in Americans and also raise awareness about the mental issues that we may be facing. They also want to celebrate all those who have made a recovery and have found treatments that help them maintain and live a normal life. Mental health has become more of a trending topic in the past few years, especially because of the lockdowns during the pandemic. Now, we want to focus on the stigma surrounding mental health and ways in which we can destigmatize this topic. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also declared that their theme for this year is “Together for Mental Health” which brings us together to advocate for mental health everywhere.
Mental Health vs. Mental Illness
There is a big difference between mental health and mental illnesses. Mental health refers to anyone’s state of mind and emotional well-being, but a mental illness is a diagnosed condition that affects thoughts and behaviors. Everyone can have poor mental health, but this doesn’t mean they have a mental illness. However, people with mental illnesses can also have a good mental health if they are getting the help they need. Even though they are both different, they can have similar treatments, such as therapy, medications, etc. There are over 200 different mental illnesses, here are a few; depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, BPD, schizophrenia, eating disorders, etc.
These two terms have been used interchangeably, but it is important to know the difference in order to use the right one. Our mental health reflects our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Health literacy is important, therefore it’s important to start educating people on it. Mental illnesses affect 1 in 4 people, making it important to learn the differences to correctly help those who need it.
Stigma Around Mental Health
There has always been a negative stigma around mental health. The stigma can be broken up into 3 categories: public, self, and institutional. The stigma of mental health in the public is that people who have a poor mental health or have a mental illness are dangerous, incompetent, unpredictable, and that they are the reason to blame. Usually this isn’t true because you can’t tell a person’s state of mental health, let alone if they have an underlying illness. Yet, they still are discriminated against by not being hired by employers, the healthcare system offers them a lower standard of care, etc. Since public stigma takes a big toll on mental health already, it makes you believe that you are unworthy, that you’re to blame, it can even make you depressed to the point that you don’t want to try to get help. This all leads to low-self-esteem and self-efficacy, which makes the situation even worse. Lastly, this negative stigma runs so deep that it has been institutionalized, which leads to the loss of opportunities for these people.
The negative stigma that surrounds mental health has many harmful effects on people and on society as a whole. All of this may result in stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. For years, mental health has been an issue that people would not talk about, we see it in women, men, and even children. Many people can have mental health issues, and they might not even know that they have a mental illness until they get help. All of this stigma results in reduced hope, low self-esteem, difficulties in relationships, lower chances of staying on treatments, increased psychiatric symptoms, substance abuse, etc. It’s time to put an end to the negative stigma around mental health and mental illnesses.
Destigmatize Mental Health
Recently, mental health has become a more popular topic, more people are trying to open up about their mental health and trying to get help. Especially with the pandemic, mental health issues have spiked because of lockdowns and changes that we have had to endure. However, there is still a negative stigma that we have to fight against and here are a few tips on how to do your part.
First, talk openly about mental health. There is nothing wrong with discussing struggles with mental health or even talking about a mental illness. Even famous people have started to talk about these topics that are hard. Being open about your own mental health struggles can even lead to family being more able to openly talk about their own mental health. However, when talking about this topic, be mindful of the use of language. Since negativity has surrounded mental health for so long, it can be hard to break out of using slang and certain words, but this is something we are all going to have to learn. For example, we have to stop linking mental illness with dangerousness and being mindful of toxic positivity when someone opens up about their mental health issues.
Learning is the key to having this conversation. It all starts with education, especially educating yourself. There are so many resources available to learn about mental health and mental illnesses, even this blog. Education doesn’t just end with you though, pass on your knowledge. Educate others in your life about mental health stigmas and how to change it.
Being honest about yourself is also important. Everyone will struggle with their mental health eventually, but don’t hide it. Speak about it, even if it’s about a mental illness, don’t shy away from it. Empower yourself by being open, when people see your confidence, they will want to follow. Empowerment also means not stigmatizing yourself. Self-stigma is one of the three ways that negative stigma spreads. Don’t stigmatize yourself, there’s nothing wrong in struggling with your mental health or a mental illness. Don’t give up on yourself, seek the help you need and help others if you see that they might be in need of that, too. One person at a time, and one conversation at a time, this is how the stigma will disappear within time.
Treatments and Help
While we want to destigmatize mental health, we understand that this can be hard while already struggling. There are many ways to keep the mind healthy and happy. Whether having a mental illness or not, therapy is one of the best ways to help your mental health. Being able to talk to a professional can give new insights on yourself and what you’re going through. Being able to talk through things helps people. Seeing a medical professional is a great start as well. Talk to your doctor about your issues, they will help find strategies that could help. Some could be as simple as exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, sleeping more, etc. If you have a mental illness, one of the ways to not let it intervene with daily life is through medication. However, there is not a straight “fix” when struggling with mental health and mental illnesses, which is why talking about it is important. Every person is individual, and things will affect them differently, and that’s okay. You have to find what works best for you and your health.
There are also organizations that can help. Here is a list of organizations that you can research, as well as crisis and suicide hotlines.
- Bring Change to Mind
- Stomp Out Stigma
- How Are You, Really?
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health:
- NAMI HelpLine:
- The Trevor Project:
Mental health is important, and you need to take a break and ask yourself if you are mentally healthy. It’s okay to struggle with your mental health, but it is also okay to ask for help when it becomes too much to bear. You never know what a person is going through, especially how their mental health is. So be kind, be respectful, and remember that you are never alone. If you would like to share your own stories with us, we would love to hear them.