The stigma for mental health clients continues to negatively impact communities of all kinds. The taboo of being mentally unwell crosses all socioeconomic levels, age groups, races, religions and professions. Similar to a physical health diagnosis; some people simply do not want to know, they are ashamed or in denial of their symptoms and self medicate. Whether you are the potential client or close to the potential client I believe the general consensus is, having a mental health crisis can be scary for everyone involved.
As a therapist, my goal is to discuss mental wellness with as many people as possible to help normalize seeking treatment for mental health and wellness. What better time to have an open dialogue about mental health than now with the many changes in our healthcare system. It would be ideal if everyone could set aside their assumptions, fears and negative perspectives about mental health. We can help those around us seek help without the fear of labeling and minimizing with a few tips. Below are a few ways to help someone that appears to need help achieving mental wellness.
What Can you Do....
Get educated. Learn the facts about symptoms you experience or observe in someone else. Mental health needs are not the same in everyone and can manifest differently for each person. Everyone will not need a diagnose, hospitalization or medication.
Know who to call and when. There is only so much self medicating once can do before the symptoms become too much to manage. Simply talking about mental health will not give a person any ideas. Sometimes, someone initiating a discussion can break the ice and start the process. Know the resources in your community and call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department when the symptoms appear unmanageable.
Be supportive. If you are struggling with providing support, connect with someone that is empathetic to you and can possibly lead you in the right direction. There are a number treatments available and it takes courage to seek the help. The difference between someone seeking help or silently fighting can be the support of one helpful individual.
Be aware of your own judgements and prejudices. We all have them; and unfortunately many come from other uneducated individuals passing on poor information. Be honest about your own shame and guilt about mental health so that you can be an active participant in ending the stigma.
Listen, listen, listen. Whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not - we all want to be heard. We all want to know that someone is listening to us and/or trying to understand what we need. Just because you don’t understand the symptoms does not mean you are not able to help.
Support mental health organizations and providers. Many organizations close due to funding and lack of community support. Volunteering your time and/or money goes a long way to provide resources for those in need of services. You may not know who you helped specifically but your contribution can help other professionals and volunteers with ending the negative stigma.
Mental health care and treatment is a universal issue and awareness is one of the critical pieces to making treatment available.