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  • Sara

Destigmatizing Mental Health & Raising Awareness

Mental health, for far too long, has been commonly viewed as a taboo topic, and one that is oftentimes left unspoken. This needs to change. Mental health is just as important as physical health and discussing our struggles should be a part of our everyday conversations, -- not something that continues to be shied away from.

Mental health conditions are very common. In fact, nearly one in five adults in the United States experiences a mental health condition in any given year. This means that if we destigmatize mental health, we can help a lot of people. We need to destigmatize the topic and make it more acceptable so those who are struggling get the help they need.

In the last couple of years, mainly due to the onset of COVID-19, we have come a long way in breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental health. As the world changed abruptly, the need for services grew. People were suddenly feeling very anxious and alone, unable to go about their day to day as they did previously and see their loved ones. Parents were suddenly trying to juggle having their kids home from school with their work, employers lost many employees, and the elderly population felt abandoned because many were unable to continue visiting with their families.

While COVID created a lot of havoc for some time and the world will never be the same as a result, one positive thing came out of the chaos. That is that suddenly mental health was not longer estranged from everyday conversation. As slogans such as “We’re in this together” and “Together we will” began to circulate, conversations about psychological health became commonplace.

However, despite these advances, a lot of people still believe that mental health concerns are not as valid as physical health concerns. This is largely due to the fact that they are internal, not external – in a way, that is. What most still don’t realize is that mental health tends to show up in very physical ways, including lethargy, aches and pains, oversleeping or under sleeping, and other symptoms that are linked to this internal struggle. Yet, all too often, the mental and physical symptoms are not associated as being one in the same issue.

Employers continue to not offer health insurance that covers mental health. Folks are still shamed for seeking professional help or going through an inpatient facility when needed. When someone needs to take a mental health day or admits that they have been struggling with depression and need a break, some will still say that they are just being lazy or that they need to get over it. All of these issues are still around us; things may be better, but it is important that we continue to break the stigma.

Here are some ways that we can all work together to continue to raise awareness about mental health.

1. Talk about our experiences – If you are comfortable with talking about your mental health struggles, that is a great place to start. The more we openly talk about it, the more people will also feel comfortable to share their perspective. It’s amazing how just the mention of struggling tends to evoke open conversation around this topic, as if people are eager to open up but often don’t know where to start. Discussing our experiences can be a very powerful tool to get others to really start hearing what we have to say. If you are not comfortable talking about your experience, you could consider writing an anonymous blog so that your identity is protected but your story is still being heard.

2. Advocate for ourselves and others – It is so important that we find ways to make ourselves be seen and heard, especially when it comes to our mental health needs. Some ways that you can advocate for yourself are to speak up about your concerns when seeing the doctor and ask about whether a specialist like a psychiatrist or therapist could help. You could also be brave and ask for mental health days from your employer. If your friends and family do not understand your experience, offer up resources for them to learn more about your situation. The more that resources are circulated, the more people will begin to understand.

3. Share topics on social media – If there are posts about mental health awareness, self-care, mindfulness, and so on, you could share those on your social media pages for your network to see. This is a quick and easy way to spread the word without having to feel the pressure of creating your own content or sharing your own story.

Whatever your style is, it can be very helpful when we all chip in to change the stigma surrounding mental health. After all, we are all in this together!


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